The residents of Northeast Queens have been diligently working with Councilmember Paul Vallones office to decide how $1 million of discretionary funds will be spent within the community. Participatory budgeting, which can now be found in 24 of 51 City Council districts is a great opportunity for all residents as young as 16, especially those new to civic life, to suggest and vote on how a portion of the citys budget is allocated. Anybody who is interested can suggest capital projects that cost between $35,000 and $1 million, such as school and park upgrades, library enhancements and beautification projects. Voting is held over the course of a week in April 2015. The first step in the participatory budgeting process is to host brainstorming sessions at neighborhood assemblies. At these assemblies, ideas are proposed and then budget delegates are designated to champion the ideas to ensure they are fully developed and do outreach so the community is aware of what they will be voting on.

The first three neighborhood assemblies hosted by Vallones office have been tremendously successful as hundreds of residents have participated. Nearly every civic organization in Vallones district has been given a presentation on participatory budgeting by the councilmembers staff and the three past assemblies were strategically placed in areas throughout the district that are easily accessible by public transportation.

Some of the project ideas suggested so far include beautification by placing planters, lamp posts, trash bins and old-fashioned clocks, creating adult exercise stations at major local parks, bike path resurfacing along Joe Michaels Mile, building special needs playground equipment, funding security cameras for the NYPD, curb reconstruction for flood-prone areas and technological improvements for many schools that require them. Budget delegates will review community needs and ideas from across the district, develop project proposals with help from city experts and decide which projects are placed on the ballot for voting in April. Most projects usually range from $50,000 to $350,000. Im thrilled that we have been able to get so many great project ideas already and have been successful in involving as many people as we can, said Vallone. I cant understate the importance of being able to involve the community in this budget process.

This truly gives them an unprecedented opportunity to engage government and have a say in how their tax dollars are spent. The fourth and final neighborhood assembly will be held in Bayside at the Bay Terrace Cooperative Section I Board Room, located at 13-65 212th St., Bayside on Wednesday, November 12, at 7:00 pm To RSVP or for more information, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 718-619- 8611.

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) is holding his wards final English language participatory budgeting neighborhood assembly Tuesday night.

The brainstorming session for the wards 2015 participatory budgeting process will take place at 7 pm at the Loyola Park Fieldhouse, 1230 W. Greenleaf Ave. On Wednesday night, Moore will hold his last Spanish language neighborhood assembly at 6:30 pm at St. Jeromes Church, 1709 W. Lunt Ave.

Participatory budgeting lets residents decide how to spend aldermanic menu money for infrastructure needs. Moore has used the process in his ward since 2009. Read Progress Illinois coverage of participatory budgeting in Chicago here.

(Image: School savings via Shutterstock)Money - how its raised, how its budgeted and what it buys - has been the silent driver of education reform across this nation for more than a decade. Now, with state funding for public higher education in post-recessionary decline, most institutions have been forced to raise college tuition, cut back on academic programs, privatize services and seek new revenue streams, including from private foundations and corporate sponsors. Insidiously, another innovation in education money matters is performance or outcomes-based funding.

Amid the chatter about top-to-bottom reform in Oregon, one missing link is consideration of its mission. Heres what the statutes say higher educations tasks are: to deliver high-quality education, to prepare students for a democratic society and to contribute to the economic, cultural and civic advancement of the state. Years of disinvestment have undermined these aims, as Oregons rank of 47 among states in funding attests.

Evidently ignoring both of these points, Oregons Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) is charging ahead in a new direction. HECC is tasked with making policy recommendations to the governor and state legislature. Its focus is on the how of funding, not how much. Championing performance-based budgeting, HECCs plan for higher education funding is billed as a way to maximize student success by making postsecondary education more accessible and affordable - all with an eye toward achieving the states aspirational goal that 80 percent of Oregonians obtain a degree by 2025.

HECC argues that this catchphrase, reverberating through the halls of the Oregon State Capitol, represents a more efficient and cost-effective funding model. Evidence for this claim is scarce.

To date, student enrollment has driven public higher education funding. Contrast this to the performance-based budgeting model, which ties funding to student outcomes. While the model focuses on degree completion, retention and job placement, it overlooks several key issues.

Performance funding will undercut investment in instruction, peer mentoring, academic advising and other essential elements of student success. Why? Because performance-based budgeting operates under the guise of efficiency and productivity, but does so by sacrificing quality. This model will drive institutions to balance their budgets with more online courses, the overuse of part-time and adjunct instructors, and larger class sizes. Performance or outcomes-based funding also fails to account for the fact that most non-traditional and working adults who attend college take longer to complete their degrees - a fact that will punish institutions fiscally.

If the legislature adopts the outcomes-focused plan, how will student performance benchmarks be measured? The effect is that funding will be cut from institutions whose students acquire new skills and trades without seeking degrees. Oregons community colleges, often the best recourse for worker retraining in recessionary times, will be penalized under this funding approach, and so too will 100,000+ Oregon students.

Given these limitations, it is unlikely that performance-based budgeting will move the states education aspirations over the horizon, as Governor Kitzhaber promised in a recent meeting of his education governance board. The state should instead turn its attention to the real issues in higher education funding. Skyrocketing college tuition, which has forced students to put their educational aspirations on hold, is one such topic worthier of HECCs attention than artificial performance indicators.

Another critical question more on point is to address the disconnect between Oregons chronic underfunding of postsecondary education and its expectations of high performance. Indeed, even in its own recent report, the HECC acknowledged that state funding for higher education had declined by 32 percent since the Great Recession. This state cant expect Dom PÃrignon on a micro-brew budget.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe questions commitment to prudent budgeting in annual address