Arlington, MA – Open Source Visual Budget

The Town of Arlington, Massachusetts displays its budget visually and interactively here:

Arlington Visual Budget

The master menu allows the user to view revenues, expenses, and funds & reserves. Within each category, the “top level’ view (upper left hand corner) shows the most basic information – amount in the category and change over prior years. The lower left shows change over time on a stacked line graph. Most interestingly, the right side of the screen contains an interactive tree map of the components of the category. The user can click on a box in the tree map to “zoom in” and get more detail.

Other interactive features include year-over-year comparisons, tabular views with sparklines, and a “your contribution calculator” in the expense view.

The underlying software is open source and can be used by any government. The user will need to customize the line items in a CSV table to reflect the unique local categories. Then, the data can be imported from Excel or another CSV file to create a visual, interactive version of their own budget.

This is a limited form of community engagement, as it does not directly create any interaction or partnership. On the other hand, it creates a significant opportunity for feedback by a citizenry with a better, more intuitive sense of the budget.

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