Charlottesville, July 13, 2016 - Smart Cville, in collaboration with Albemarle County, is excited to announce the launch of an online budget visualization tool for the County's recently published FY17 budget. The tool provides an interactive and engaging look at the County's revenue streams and most of its expenditures. Interested residents can input their real estate tax payments and explore how those dollars are spent. Historical data going back to 2011 allows users to see how budget areas have changed over time. The site can be accessed today at http://albemarle.smartcville.com/.
Public discourse on municipal issues is often hampered by the fact that few residents have time to sift through dense budget documents. By providing a much more accessible and personal view of the budget, the public will be better equipped to provide input and feedback during future budget cycles, and in current discussions before the County. In 2015, Smart Cville launched its first budget tool with the City of Charlottesville (available at http://budget.smartcville.com). “Since launching the City tool, over 1,000 people have explored Charlottesville's budget, and we're excited for Albemarle residents to have the same opportunity,” explained Lucas Ames, founder and Chair of Smart Cville.
This project would not be possible without some great leaders in Massachusetts. In the fall of 2013, Involution Studios of Arlington, MA, along with the Town of Arlington, former Town 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. Involution donated all development services for this project, the first known municipal budget visual representation of its kind.
Built as an open-source project, Involution and Smart Cville welcome other municipalities to build on this tool, and help make municipal budgets all over the country more accessible.
Said Ames, "Public discourse begins with understanding often complicated issues. Budget documents are walls of numbers and footnotes. With this tool residents will be able to engage the budget in a personal and clear way. We hope the tool increases understanding and helps inspire informed discourse."
Within the County, this project was spearheaded by the Rio District Supervisor Brad Sheffield, and Smart Cville worked closely with Emily Kilroy, the County's Community Engagement Specialist. Projects like this require the enthusiasm of staff and elected officials that understand the value of a more informed public. Smart Cville extends its thanks to everyone at the County that was involved in this launch.
Smart Cville is a 501(c)(3)-designated, non-profit organization committed to promoting public discourse on municipal government, collaborating with Charlottesville-Albemarle regional municipalities to promote forward-thinking development and management, and partnering with like-minded organizations to make open data work, support innovations in infrastructure, and participate in progressive and thoughtful planning. Find out more at http://smartcville.com.