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ClearGov Launches ChatGPT Tool for Municipal Budgets

The feature uses artificial intelligence to help craft budget books, including the text narratives that accompany spending changes. The tool could save time and hassle during the hectic budget process.

One person sitting across a table from another and holding up a graph in front of them and pointing to it with a pen, with a laptop sitting on the table beside them showing a graph on its screen.
ChatGPT is getting a chance to prove itself in municipal budgeting via a new tool from Massachusetts-based government technology vendor ClearGov.

AI is perhaps the hottest new thing in gov tech, poised to play a role in everything from education to transit to public agency communications.

Few tasks are more important to government than crafting budgets — and the narratives around the numbers — and that’s what ClearGov is targeting with its own AI-powered tool, Chris Bullock, CEO and founder of ClearGov, told Government Technology.

The tool, emerging from beta testing, will come as a no-cost feature for ClearGov’s platform, at least for now, though Bullock said the company “reserves the right” to charge for it in the future.

ClearGov has nearly 1,000 clients.

The ChatGPT budgeting feature takes in past data and future estimates about a budget and combines that information with current figures to produce a budget book, complete with text narratives about spending. The training data used by the feature so far spans three years, he said, though he noted ongoing feedback from clients could eventually lead to more years of data being included.

Those narratives are often vital to a budget because they help put figures into context and sell the budget to elected officials and citizens.

“I’ve seen budget books with no narratives,” he said.

And that’s really where AI gets a chance to shine, at least as Bullock told it.

“ChatGPT is great at writing a history of a city,” he said.

That, in turn, can lead to time savings during the hectic work of creating a municipal budget. Savings can vary, at least judging by the beta testing, but clients have reported saving up to 25 percent of time, or up to hundreds of hours.

The tool isn’t designed to replace human input in budgeting or to put software in charge of how taxpayer money is spent. Rather, it is meant to make the process more efficient, especially when building a first draft of the budget.

That said, expect more AI participation in local and state governments.

“I believe this is the biggest tech innovation since the Internet,” Bullock said about AI in general.
Thad Rueter writes about the business of government technology. He covered local and state governments for newspapers in the Chicago area and Florida, as well as e-commerce, digital payments and related topics for various publications. He lives in Wisconsin.