Arlington budget innovation turns up in Virginia

Screen shot from Arlington Visual BudgetScreen shot from Arlington's Visual Budget.

An online tool developed in Arlington to track town finances two years ago is helping residents of Charlottesville, Va.

The city is using visual budget developed here by Involution Studios

Smart Cville created the Charlottesville Budget Visualization project, using color-coordinated displays and maps to show the city’s revenues and expenses over a fiscal year.

"This project would not be possible without some great leaders in Massachusetts," a news release says. Involution, with the Town of Arlington, former Selectman Annie LaCourt and Finance Committee Vice Chair Alan Jones, conceptualized a web application that provides an easier way to communicate complex municipal financial information.

Smart Cville says Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, is the first city in that state to use this form of budget visualization.

"It’s takes a really complicated financial instrument like the city budget and breaks it down into an interactive visualization with more digestible chunks for the average citizen to understand," said Lucas Ames with Smart Cville.

As in Arlington, the website is free to use and was not developed by the city, so no taxpayer dollars went toward it. See Charlotteville's effort here >> See Arlington's here >> 

Other cities in Virginia have budget visualizations, but they are published on sites that carry costs to the taxpayer, Smart Cville said.

Smart Cville's comments about the effort reflect an attitude projected by Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine:

"Hopefully, the transparency and inclusiveness inherent in this project will encourage more citizens to engage politically. Transparent and open government has demonstrated the power not only to achieve this goal, but also to engender confidence and trust among citizens toward government."

Oct. 8, 2013: Start-up, town move toward an online budget vision

This report was published Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015.