Skip to main content

Participatory budgeting in Unincorporated King County

Participatory Budgeting steering committee

Participatory budgeting is back!

After a successful first round that wrapped up in 2022, Local Services is again leading this innovative approach to community-driven public funding in urban unincorporated areas.

Learn more

This democratic and inclusive process allows community members to decide how to spend part of a public budget in their communities. They submit ideas for improvements, projects, programs, or services they think will make a positive difference in their communities, and then vote to choose which ideas will be funded.

The program is focusing on these five urban unincorporated areas:

  • East Federal Way
  • East Renton Plateau
  • Fairwood
  • North Highline/White Center
  • Skyway/West Hill

This program is focusing on:

  1. Equity: Creating a process that uses authentic community engagement to reach those who are farthest away from traditional power, resources, and opportunities. Creating and participating in those outreach efforts throughout all phases (idea collection, project development, voting, planning, and evaluation). Considering investments that address the greatest community needs when choosing projects.
  2. Access: Allowing all community members to participate in the process. Providing language interpretation and translation and accessibility accommodations for meetings. Engaging the community in ways that meet the needs of people of different ages and with different amounts of education.
  3. Accountability: Developing ways to measure how the committee is actively engaging people who have not been involved in past government or budget processes. Informing and engaging residents of each community about the process, timelines, project identification, submittal, and selection.
  4. Prioritization and cost estimation: Validating each area’s community needs list (a list of needs created using community input and discussions). Prioritizing projects and evaluating cost estimates for the projects that will be considered by the community for investment.

Membership on the steering committee is open to all members of the public who live, work, attend school, play, and/or worship in the communities they seek to represent, or who can demonstrate some other strong connection to that community, such as having been displaced from there due to gentrification.

King County staff members take steps to recruit people of color and those who are LGQBTIA, youths, seniors, immigrants, refugees, and/or who have low incomes or disabilities, as well as people from other underrepresented groups.

The committee includes representatives from each community listed above. Each service area delegation is a mix that includes representatives from businesses and community-based organizations, youths under age 21, and “at-large” members who represent the community as a whole.

King County partners with community organizations in each community to recruit and select local applicants.

Community leaders

Community leaders are voting members of the Steering Committee. They collaborate with King County government and decision makers to decide on the rules that will guide the participatory budgeting process. Their responsibilities are to:

  • Provide oversight to ensure the process meets its goals
  • Vote on decisions for the guidebook
  • Organize community engagement activities

County staff members

County staff members support participatory budgeting. Their responsibilities are to:

  • Administer and implement participatory budgeting within county processes
  • Ensure that participants and the public have the information needed to be involved in process
  • Support participants during idea collection and sorting, coordinate agency briefings, and support voting events

County resource experts

County resource experts provide valuable input into the development of proposals. Their responsibilities are to:

  • Support community members in proposal development, including cost estimates
  • Review proposals during development to ensure they are feasible and meet King County’s funding eligibility criteria, including any requirements based on the source of funding


Facilitators may be consultants, county staff members, or community members. Their responsibilities are to:

  • Create safe spaces at idea collection events and proposal advocate meetings, allowing community members to participate effectively
  • Make sure everyone stays on track to meet process deadlines
  • Make sure that decisions are made within the framework established by the Steering Committee

King County supports the Steering Committee with administration, education, project management, facilitation, cost calculation, and determinations regarding legal use of funds. It provides training, mentoring, and coaching to help the team navigate government systems effectively. The county also provides a committee budget for services related to the participatory budgeting process.

Participatory budgeting cycle

  • Design

    April – August 2023

    27 community members lead the steering committee to design this participatory budgeting process and allocate funds to each area.

  • Idea collection

    September – November 2023

    Community members are asked to submit project proposal ideas in person, online, by phone, or via paper idea submission forms.

  • Proposal development

    November 2023 – April 2024

    Community volunteers work with King County staff members to build detailed project proposals that will go on a community ballot for a vote.

  • Voting

    May – June 2024

    Community members vote on the proposals that best serve the needs of the community.

  • Funding

    July 2024 – ongoing

    King County Local Services funds and implements the winning ideas.