The Durham City Council in a split vote decided Monday night to let residents choose how to spend $2.4 million through participatory budgeting.

The five-two vote follows weeks of disagreement over how much funding the city should set aside for its first attempt at participatory budgeting, in which Durham residents and students thirteen and older will get to vote on projects they’d like to see the city implement.

City staff had recommended $750,000, while Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson, who has advocated for the city to enact participatory budgeting during her time on the council, suggested $2.5 million based on models in other cities. That figure was tweaked to $2.4 million Monday night because it would be more easily divided among the three wards used in city elections. The amount will be included in the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget, and, according to a tentative timeline, residents would vote on their preferred projects around this time next year.

The total will be divided evenly among the wards, and residents will vote on projects for their own ward only. The projects could be wholly original ideas, or ones already in the city’s pipeline but not slated for immediate implementation. Council members acknowledged that the city’s wards are unwieldy, but ultimately decided to use the system in the interest of time, and left open the prospect of using different participatory budgeting districts in the future.

“This is a significant amount of money and a significant investment and I think it’s an investment in the capacity of you — our residents — to lead the way,” said council member Vernetta Alston. City Manager Tom Bonfield is recommending that $304,000 be set aside in the fiscal year 2018-19 budget for administrative costs associated with participatory budging.

Council member Mark-Anthony Middleton and Mayor Steve Schewel voted against the figure.

On Monday night, Middleton staunchly supported the city staff’s recommendation of $750,000 for the first cycle. He said while he supports participatory budgeting and could see allotting more in the future, he couldn’t justify an inaugural allocation of $2.4 million to residents who are struggling to keep their homes and find jobs.

Middleton also said he would not support raising taxes to fund participatory budgeting projects alone, and that any tax increase supporting the initiative should also go toward pressing issues like housing. (Both Schewel and Bonfield have said taxes may need to be raised next year to fund selected projects).

Schewel said $1 million is “plenty of money to try this out and try it out well” and that he wouldn’t vote for more.

“I think we’ve had a good process. We’ve gotten to a good place and we just disagree,” he said. “This is a group that’s used to agreeing on a lot. We just disagree and, guess what, that’s OK.”

Council member Charlie Reece voted in the affirmative after trying to get his colleagues behind a singular compromise, saying he was more concerned with the details of the participatory budget process than the specific funding amount. Council member DeDreana Freeman also joined the majority after questioning whether the process had been sufficiently transparent and deliberate in involving marginalized residents.

“It feels a lot like our legislature right now and I’m concerned about that,” she said.

Alston, Johnson and council member Javiera Caballero had argued $2.5 million was needed to not only make sure that the projects chosen succeed, but that residents feel that the process is worth engaging. Voting would be open to any resident thirteen and older, regardless of citizenship status. To vote, they could present proof of address or affirm they live in the city on a form.

“I’ve tried to seek common ground,” Caballero said. “For me part of this is allowing people who don’t normally get to participate to participate in something very important … Their taxes get collected one way or the other and that’s why I find this project to be so compelling because so many in our community do not get to vote.”