In the second iteration of Gaithersburg’s online participatory budgeting initiative, the city invites the public to provide their input on priorities for budget allocation in FY19. Through the Virtual Budget Forum, an online survey platform built on SurveyMonkey, citizens are given the opportunity to comment on a series of open-ended questions regarding the city’s future spending.
For example, “If you were the person deciding where to allocation tax dollars, what ONE service would you maintain funding for above all others?”, “Do you have any ideas about how we could increase efficiency or reduce expenses?” and “If you think we need to increase services or add more facilities, how would you suggest we pay for them?” are among a few of the eight survey questions.
Additionally, the FY19 Budget Timeline, FY18 Budget, FY19 Strategic Plan, FY17 Audited Statement, and 2017 Biennial Citizen Survey, as well as a comprehensive list of city services, are all resources available on the government website.
The FY19 budget is scheduled for public hearing on April 16 and city officials are expected vote on a budget by early June. Following the Virtual Budget Forum, city staff hold the annual Mayor and City Council retreat, where a draft Strategic Plan is presented for consideration. Comments and feedback from both the forum and the retreat are then reflected in the adopted budget. Here is the full timeline.
Only last year did the city of Gaithersburg move the budget forum online. According to the city’s director of the department of community and public relations,“by hosting the forum in the digital world, we received 120 responses, considerably higher than the number of people who gave comment when the Forum was held during a traditional meeting at City Hall.”