PORTAGE PARK — Residents of the 36th Ward can submit ideas through the end of the month on how to spend Ald. Gilbert Villegas' $1 million discretionary budget.
Villegas, who also put his 2015 budget up for a vote, will hold two neighborhood assemblies Aug. 22 to develop the list of infrastructure projects that residents will ultimately vote on Oct. 9-22 at locations throughout the Northwest Side ward.
The first assembly will take place at 6 p.m. at Iglesia Evangelica Emmanuel, 5018 W. Armitage Ave. The second will take place at 7 p.m. Word of Life Church of God, 2254 N. Narragansett Ave.
Residents of the ward, which includes the south and west sides of Portage Park, can also submit ideas for the money via an online form or stop by the ward office, 6934 W. Diversey Ave., said Justin Heath, director of policy for Villegas.
A field at Locke Elementary School, a new splash pad at Bell Park, a community garden at Prosser Career Academy and trees were the big winners in the first participatory budgeting vote in the 36th Ward in May.
Projects on the May ballot that didn't make the cut will be considered for the vote in October, Heath said.
"Even though this is a quick year we do want to ensure everyone has their say," Heath said.
The fast turnaround is designed to give city departments more time to implement projects approved by residents, Heath said.
Voters will decide what percentage of the budget should be used to resurface streets, and as many projects as possible will be funded with the remaining money, up to $1 million. Approximately $300,000 will be kept in reserve for emergencies, officials said.
This year, new rules will be in effect to limit projects that fall under the jurisdiction of one of the city's sister agencies who get a share of property tax revenue, which will be limited to no more than $100,000 of Villegas' discretionary budget, Heath said.
In addition, similar projects — and those that are in close proximity to each other — will be bundled in an effort to allow more diverse projects to be funded, Heath said.
The annual pot of money given to each alderman is earmarked for infrastructure improvements — paving streets, upgrading traffic signals and replacing street lamps.
Most aldermen decide how to spend the money themselves, but in recent years a number of council members have begun soliciting project ideas from constituents and putting them to a vote, including Ald. John Arena (45th.)
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