Annie LaCourt

Alan JonesCan you visualize a town budget? Two Arlington residents have been providing online tools to do that for nearly three years, and they're idea is catching on.

Annie LaCourt and Alan Jones helped create the Arlington Visual Budget in 2013. Now the app is in 15 communities nationwide, with five more Massachusetts communities considering it.

"For smaller communities, I think it's a big deal, because they can't always afford the big vendors," LaCourt said in a report by Government Technology, "For smaller communities I think it’s a big deal, because they can't always afford the big vendors, and it allows them to prove value, both to themselves and to taxpayers."

LaCourt, a former selectman, and Jones, vice chair of the town's Finance Committee, both with high-tech background, worked with Involution Studio in Arlington to develop a way for town residents to view hard data, assist city staff with budget communication, and aid other cities hunting for low-cost transparency tools.

The pair cofounded VisGov, which the state of Massachusetts awarded a $40,000 grant to develop the tool into interactive visuals that can be embedded in any website.

Besides the tool's use in 15 locales -- which are mainly in Massachusetts, but also in Virginia and North Carolina (see here, at left) -- LaCourt told YourArlington: "We are currently working on [sites for] Wenham, Grafton, Sharon, Andover and Bedford."

You can read more about this at "Low-Cost Budget Visualization Tool Gains Momentum,"but Jones calls the comparison of their effort with paid options OpenGov and Socratra "quite an overstatement."

Sept. 20, 2015: Town's visual budget scores Digital Government Achievement Award

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

This update was published Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016.