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Municipal budget by postcard

Mar 01, 2019
How the Italian town of Mals decides how the municipality will spend its money.
Image caption:
© Martina Waldner

An adventure playground for children, a village cinema, a project for waste prevention and numerous other ideas: official representative Marion Januth has to pause for breath in order to list everything that has already been achieved as a result of the «citizens’ budget» in the town of Mals, located in South Tyrol’s Vinschgau Valley. Since 2016 local people have each year decided how to spend the €200,000 contained in the municipality’s investment budget. «We wanted to do something here to give people more opportunities to participate, discuss and decide matters.» In the first year alone the locals submitted 47 project ideas: the municipality implements between five and ten a year.

The town hall produces postcards on which each person can propose a maximum of three suggestions. All residents aged 16 years and over may vote on the proposals, with their choices allocated to at least three ideas. «In the first year this wasn’t the case as everyone was permitted to specify just one project», explains Marion Januth. The new points system means that more projects have a chance of being realised.

Among the aims for 2019 are opening a bus service to two outlying areas, restoring dry stone walls, reopening vanished Waalwege (irrigation channels), re-establishing the Mals seed production co-operative and promoting diversity in the Upper Vinschgau Valley. Some projects will take longer than one year, for example the feasibility study into the «Biotal Matsch (organic Matscher Valley)». Committed citizens are very often involved in the implementation of projects, such as the adventure playground.

Ideas for savings are also welcome, with the annual publication of the brochure on the citizens’ budget soon to be discontinued. According to Marion Januth, a number of people pointed out that a brochure of this kind involves considerable costs each year and is a burden on the environment. «So we stopped publishing it and we now only use the municipal bulletin.» The people of Mals have in contrast no intention of giving up their citizens’ budget. 

More information: (de, it)

Filed under: social innovation