Wollongong's new citizens panel will meet for the first time this week, as it prepares to deliberate over which council services should be cut or saved and whether the city should implement an extra rate rise.
The panel - comprising up to 40 randomly selected people representing the region's demographics - will form a pivotal part of Wollongong City Council's public engagement strategy to help decide how to make the organisation more financially sustainable.
It will be run by independent consultant Lucy Cole-Edelstein, who ran a similar panel at Canada Bay Council in Sydney last year.
Over the past week, Ms Cole-Edelstein's team has been phoning residents to develop a panel that represents a "mini community of Wollongong".
"It's often likened to a jury ... but with a jury the men and women are actually randomly selected, whereas we take a little bit more care than that," she said.
"We make sure they represent all the elements of the community."
There would be an even split between men and women, an equal number of panel members from each Wollongong ward and a representative number of people from different age groups, Ms Cole-Edelstein said.
Participants will be paid $400 to cover their expenses and time, as they give up two evenings and two weekends over the next month.
A residents' group called Save Our Services raised concerns about the citizens panel when it was first announced, fearing participants might be able to be led by council staff to come up with preconceived conclusions.
However, Ms Cole-Edelstein said this was impossible under the citizens panel process.
"It's almost impossible for us to lead them, because we actually don't have an opinion and we don't live in Wollongong," she said.
"My job is simply to create a process in which the community can get the information that they need so they can make informed comments."
Ms Cole-Edelstein said the results of the Canada Bay citizens panel gave some indication of the kind of recommendations that the Wollongong group might develop.
The Sydney panel recommended service cuts, including reducing the frequency of street cleaning and park maintenance, decreasing expenditure on events and getting rid of the costs associated with the council's sister city program.
It also recommended introducing new parking meters to increase revenue, upping costs of council services for non-residents of Canada Bay and increasing commercial activities in public spaces.
The panel agreed a rate rise of up to 9 per cent "could be tolerated" if the council took its other recommendations into account.
For more information, visit haveyoursaywollongong.com.au.