The Massachusetts startup has devised an online tool for local governments to draft, publish and automatically update their budgets in a way they hope is more user-friendly and accessible to citizens than the status quo.
By law, local governments must produce a public record of each year’s budgetary decisions, a “budget book” that details agency revenue, expenses and financial priorities. For some governments, this is a time-consuming process involving lots of Word and Excel documents, a considerable amount of staff time, and an end result that can be hard for citizens to read and understand.
To that extent, it was an ideal process for ClearGov, a company that makes data visualization and budgeting tools, to tackle.
In a blog post earlier this month, the Massachusetts-based startup announced Digital Budget Book, an interactive, online, software-as-a-service tool that can populate interactive charts, graphs and tables with a government’s raw budget data in one click. From there, the user, such as a government finance director, can customize the content, add their own pages and graphics and make the result available online or in PDF form for the public. When budget numbers change, the software automatically detects those changes and updates Digital Budget Book’s charts and figures accordingly.
Consistent with its other SaaS products, part of ClearGov’s pitch for Digital Budget Book centers around ease of use and implementation, government transparency, citizen-friendly presentation, and cost savings by reducing staff time spent on a necessary but tedious process. The news release said ClearGov built the product according to criteria from the Government Finance Officers Association, used every year for their Distinguished Budget Presentation Awards, so public officials aiming for that distinction can see GFOA’s checklist in ClearGov’s interface.
Digital Budget Book marks the third SaaS in ClearGov’s lineup after Insights, a series of informational dashboards for the public, and a financial planning tool called Budgets. Many of the company’s new tools, functions and announcements in recent years have attempted to make local government decisions more collaborative and open to public inspection. Among other things, these have included building data portals for every town in the U.S., taking fiscal planning online, building a network of partners to publish data, and adding key performance indicators to its dashboards.
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