The Citizens Network Watchdog Poland runs a website funduszesoleckie.pl. Its aim is to collect data, run monitoring and support people and institutions, working with Solecki Fund.
Solecki Fund has been established by national law, enacted in 2009. It has been dedicated to rural areas. The smallest administrative unit in Poland is called gmina (commune). Auxiliary commune’s unit is called solectwo and Solecki Fund operates over there. Solectwo is a spatially separated environment of people living in villages or parts of small cities. The number of auxiliary units in one commune vary from a couple up to fifty.
Solecki Fund Law gives council of commune a possibility to separate some money from the local commune budget, that only local inhabitants of auxiliary commune units (solectwo) decide on. That part of the commune budget is called Solecki Fund. The exact sum of money that inhabitants of solectwo decide on is calculated on the basis of formula enclosed in the Solecki Fund Law. There are some restrictions on what money may be spend on, but generally speaking everything that commune is eligible to spend money on, may be financed from Solecki Fund. Solecki Fund may be understood as a form of participatory budget. It is a sum of money separated from the local budget and ensured for activities that improve inhabitants’ life conditions. The exact destination of the money is being defined by inhabitants themselves.
What stays behind?
The idea was to empower inhabitants, to give some power back to people and to encourage village inhabitants’ activity. Many examples, as well in Poland, as abroad, show that people do meet, and do participate, when they have a good reason to do that, and feel they can influence and change their environment. While money seem to be most attractive and effective reason for people to meet and discuss. Solecki Fund is a simple and at the same time precise mechanism that gives local inhabitants a possibility to take responsibility for local community.
How do people decide on Solecki Fund?
Decision about spending of Solecki Fund takes place in solectwo, that is usually formed by one or two villages. Inhabitants of solectwo gathers on the public meeting called village assembly (zebranie wiejskie). They present proposals, discuss and vote what to spend money on. Village assembly – zebranie wiejskie – is the key element of Solecki Fund and is an element of direct democracy in Polish legal system.
Decisions of local inhabitants taken during village assembly are 100% binding. The role of the local authorities is limited to inclusion of people proposals into the commune’s budget.
To sum up: only inhabitants can decide on Solecki Fund. If they do not meet on village assembly, if they do not discuss own ideas and if they do not vote on them in a direct way – there is no Solecki Fund. Local authorities cannot take any decision about spending money from Solecki Fund.
Solecki Fund concerns all rural and urban-rural communes in Poland. The council of commune has to pass the resolution on separation or separation refusal of Solecki Fund in commune’s budget every year, until March 31st. It is not obligatory to separate Solecki Fund, but commune council has to debate on the matter every year. That is the first important date in the process.
Second important date is July 31st, when the mayor or president, has to deliver to head of village information on the exact amount of money, that each solectwo is entitled to. The amount of money is being calculated according to special formula enclosed in Solecki Fund law act. It is based on the number of solectwo inhabitants and the basic sum for specific commune (calculated by division commune’s income and commune’s inhabitants number).
After this moment, everything depends on village inhabitants and head of village (who is an executive body of solectwo). Now they have time to meet, discuss and vote on the project for Solecki Fund. Activity financed from the Solecki Fund has to meet three conditions:
– improve inhabitants’ life conditions
– be one of the commune’s own objectives
– be consistent with commune’s development strategy
Project resolved by village assembly, accompanied by justification and expense estimation has to be delivered to the mayor not later than September 30th. Mayor has 7 days to examine the project considering formal correctness, and if everything is fine, project is being included to the local budget for the next year.
During next budget year, the projects are being implemented, the money are being spend. Inhabitants should have a chance to monitor the whole implementation process, as well as to engage in the realization.
Solecki Fund money is still a part of the commune’s budget, and the mayor is the body responsible for its expenditure. The project’s implementation has to be finished before the year ends, as the money cannot be passed for the next budget year. If everything in the process is formally correct, commune can compete for the proportional repayment from the national budget. The amount of repayment depends on the annual commune’s income.