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Montgomery County Unveils Website To Deepen Understanding Of Budget

By Aaron Kraut

Monday - 7/28/2014, 12:40pm  ET

B-CC High School Addition Project, in Montgomery County's new budget website

Montgomery County on Monday unveiled the “first stage” of a new website that will allow users to better understand and navigate the county’s operating and capital budgets.

The “financial transparency suite” is meant to allow residents and other stakeholders the ability to pinpoint certain government programs or projects and isolate charts and graphs more specific to their concerns. The website is coupled with a new electronic budget presentation that shows what portion of the budget different programs in different departments take up.

The county unveiled a collection of new open data sites in 2012. It worked with Socrata, its contractor on that project, to develop a new, more attractive website for its budget documents.

The site shown off on Monday includes a map of capital projects and bar graphs that allow a user to drill down into specific expenses of each program or project in each county government agency.

In a matter of a few clicks, a user can find out how much each contract costs within the STD/HIV Prevention & Treatment Program of the county’s Health and Human Services Department.

Or, a user could find out how much money (and the sources of that money) is devoted to an individual school addition project.

“The County clearly understands that government in the 21st century must achieve even greater transparency, operational efficiency and data-driven decision-making, fueled by better and broader access to its own data,” said Socrata founder and CEO Kevin Merritt in a prepared release. “This is how the innovative public sector becomes more than just a service dispensary and, instead, helps to provide increased connection and quality of life for constituents and communities.”

The county said it consulted members of the civic and business community to see which kind of information the website should include.

The county also said it will add spending and procurement data to the site. On Wednesday, Aug. 6, county officials will demonstrate ways to use the site at a reception with senior managers from the county and Socrata at the Microsoft offices in Friendship Heights.

The Data Montgomery site has 550 datasets, including salaries for all county government officials, parking space availability in county garages, commercial building permits and others.

Screenshots via Budget Data Montgomery