In looking to the future of Baltimore’s budget process, BBMR is working to expand community input in the budget process and beginning the work of budgeting for equity.
A key part of BBMR’s role is to provide residents with insights into the budget and the budget process. Over the years, BBMR has embraced this role with the development of the Budget Pop-Up at the Board of Estimates Taxpayers’ Night, presentations and workshops in the community, and social media presence. BBMR invested in expanding this initiative in Fiscal Year 2019 with the hiring of a Baltimore Corps Fellow. During this time, BBMR conducted five community presentations as of March 2019 with over 150 attendees, hosted an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit about the Preliminary Budget, and coordinated the 2019 Taxpayers’ Night with over 100 attendees. In efforts to continue and expand this work, BBMR is planning to host more presentations and workshops that will provide residents the opportunity to share input on the budget, which will be compiled and shared with decision makers during the development of the budget.
Equity in the Budget
In the summer of 2017, Baltimore’s Department of Planning began analyzing where capital projects occurred in the City based on race, income, and age group. In 2018, the City Council established an Equity Assessment Program (Council Bill 18-0223) with the intent to eliminate structural and institutional racism and other forms of discrimination. As BBMR begins the process of formalizing equity in our work, we plan to build equity into the measures we use to assess the City’s progress under the Priority Outcomes, explicitly ask about equity in the budget proposal process, and incorporate equity into our City Council bill responses. Working towards equity in Baltimore is a process and we still have a long way to go. We have begun the work internally by developing a working definition around which we are basing our planning and process.
An equitable Baltimore means that quality of life outcomes are not predicated on race, gender, class, and sexual orientation. At BBMR, we recognize the racialized context and history of Baltimore City, and value racial equity as central to our efforts. We believe that achieving equity is a process requiring intentional evaluation and transformation of policies, processes, and systems in order to dismantle barriers to quality of life outcomes. Since a City’s budget represents the priorities of its leaders, we believe infusing equity in our work is vital to achieving an equitable Baltimore. Working for equity in our role starts with examining our internal policies and operations, the City’s funding sources and allocations, public engagement with the budget, and the budget process itself in order to identify actions to help attain an equitable Baltimore.
We plan to share concrete next steps and actions throughout the process through future publications, website, and social media accounts.