Sept. 12, 2023
King County’s Participatory Budgeting Steering Committee has decided how much money each of the five urban unincorporated areas will get to fund public projects of their choice. The committee will soon ask community members for project ideas they want to see on the ballot.
The steering committee guiding King County’s Participatory Budgeting process reached a milestone recently when it decided how $11.75 million in public project funding will be spread across the county’s five urban unincorporated areas.
The allocation of funds for Participatory Budgeting—a process centered on racial equity that’s now in its second round—marks a major step in determining what the public will ultimately see on a ballot. It the program’s first cycle, the communities voted last year to fund dozens of projects and services.
Here’s how the 29-member steering committee chose to allocate the funding for this cycle:
- East Federal Way: $1,516,000
- East Renton: $754,000
- Fairwood: $754,000
- Skyway/West Hill: $3,040,000
- White Center/North Highline: $2,786,000
The communities of Skyway/West Hill and White Center/North Highline will also receive $2.9 million in marijuana tax revenue as part of the program:
- Skyway/West Hill: $1.74 million
- White Center/North Highline: $1.16 million
For the committee members, deciding how to divide available funds among the five communities was a challenging process. It required them to have honest, authentic discussions about how racial inequities have damaged entire communities, and then work together to reach consensus.
“It has been an honor to represent Skyway while working with other unincorporated King County areas in this Participatory Budgeting process,” said steering committee member Brandon Houston. “I feel really excited about the work we have done to allocate over $11.75 million in much-needed funding to our communities.”
“I love being a part of the Participatory Budgeting process,” said steering committee member Heather Patrick of White Center. “It’s very empowering in giving me a chance to see how the local government actually works, as well as to really get to put in my two cents and really feel like a part of the community.”
Program Manager Gloria Briggs said that reaching this decision about funding distribution is both a milestone for the current committee and a reflection of the hard work of the first steering committee, which built a foundation for future programs. In fact, several members from the first steering committee have provided guidance and advice to the current group.
“Participatory Budgeting is successful because King County is empowering communities,” Briggs said. “We are shifting the power of budget decision-making to communities that historically have been disenfranchised.”
Local Services Director John Taylor says completion of the “Design” phase of Participatory Budgeting is an example of how the department’s unique approach to engaging community is producing tangible and meaningful results.
“Participatory Budgeting is a testament to what can happen when local government works directly with the folks we serve,” he said. “It’s a public partnership in the truest sense, and a transformational way of doing government business.”
The first round of participatory budgeting
In 2021, the King County Council approved Executive Dow Constantine’s new approach to community investment—one that’s centered on racial equity. It allows people who live, work, play, or worship in the county’s five urban unincorporated areas to directly choose how more than $11 million is spent in their communities.
Participatory budgeting allows communities to identify, discuss, and prioritize public spending. Residents help decide how to spend money on capital projects (physical things that are bought, built, installed, or fixed up) or programs and services.
The funds for the capital projects are backed by bonds. The funds for programs and services in North Highline/White Center and Skyway-West Hill come from King County’s general fund and are supported by marijuana retail sales tax revenue.
The steering committee, a group of residents from King County’s urban unincorporated areas, met virtually to create the framework for the new participatory budgeting process.
The committee then asked the public to submit ideas for projects that voters would choose to receive funding. The program then identified 40 community volunteers to serve as Proposal Advocates, who helped build selected ideas into detailed proposals for a community vote.
The work, planning, and community building culminated last August with a public vote that was open to anyone 12 years or older who lived, worked, went to school in, or worshipped in any of the five areas. Residents voted online and on paper. Local Services staff members, committee members, and Proposal Advocates canvassed all five areas, from National Night Out celebrations to community festivals to grocery stores.
By the end of that week, residents cast more than 2,600 ballots and chose 46 projects across the five unincorporated areas that King County is funding as part of its first participatory budgeting process.
In the coming weeks, the current steering committee and Local Services will work to solicit project ideas that could go on a ballot for the public vote. Please check the Local Services News Center, the King County Local blog, and social media pages (Facebook and Instagram) for updates.
- Brandon Houston, Skyway: “It has been an honor to represent Skyway while working with other unincorporated King County areas in this Participatory Budgeting process. I feel really excited about the work we have done to allocate over $11.75 million in much needed funding to our communities.”
- Heather Patrick, White Center: “I love being a part of the Participatory Budgeting process. It’s very empowering in giving me a chance to see how the local government actually works, as well as to really get to put in my two cents and really feel like a part of the community.”
- Jean-Paul Yafali, East Federal Way: "Participating in the Participatory Budgeting process and successfully completing the ‘Design’ phase fills me with a deep sense of accomplishment, knowing that my input has played a pivotal role in shaping the path towards a more inclusive and impactful future."
- Jeremy Gitchel, East Renton: “We are excited our funding has been approved. Now, it’s time for ideas - $754,000 for our neighborhood. Yay!”
- Beau Ervin, Fairwood: “I am honored to be a part of this cycle of the Participatory Budgeting process. Representing Fairwood to get $754,000 going towards the great ideas our community has is exciting. Let’s go!”
- LaCretiah Claytor, Skyway: “I’m excited to say that I helped advocate to get $3,040,000 for the Skyway-West Hill area. Now it is time for you to give us the ideas that you want to use for this funding to help improve the neighborhood. C’mon ya’ll!”
- Ruth Montserrat Contreras Rodriquez, White Center: “I like being part of this program because we are a very united community, and we can see the needs of White Center, and that is why we come together to be able to do something for the White Center community."
- Program Manager Gloria Briggs: “Participatory Budgeting is successful because King County is empowering communities,” Briggs said. “We are shifting the power of budget decision-making to communities that historically have been disenfranchised.”
- Local Services Director John Taylor: “Participatory Budgeting is a testament to what can happen when local government works directly with the folks we serve. It’s a public partnership in the truest sense, and a transformational way of doing government business.”
- News release: King County selects 29 members for steering committee (4/18/2023)
- News release: Steering committee members wanted for new program (4/1/2021)
- Blog post: Community Investment Budget Committee creating framework (11/2/2021)
- News release: Call for Participatory Budgeting project ideas (2/10/2022)
- Instagram post: Participatory Budgeting public vote (8/3/2022)
King County Local Services
Brent Champaco, Local Services, 206-477-9094, firstname.lastname@example.org