Civic News
Data / Design / Municipal government

Use the coolest, most comprehensive City of Philadelphia budget visualization you’ve ever seen

It's being unveiled this morning at coworking joint Independents Hall.

A new tool from City Controller candidate Brett Mandel lets Philadelphians see inside the 2012 city fiscal year budget. It’s being unveiled this morning at coworking joint Independents Hall.

Built by freelance data visualization hacker Ben Garvey, the “Bulldog Budget” visualization shows you exactly how the city spends its $3.5 billion budget, down to the last dollar (in spring 2011, Councilman Bill Green introduced legislation calling for a more available online budget tool). Click through each city department to find the breakdown of its own budget, as well as specific budget line items. Find the salary of every single city government worker (remember for salaries that they are for FY 2012 only, so new employees will be incomplete). See the impact of crime ¬†on the city budget.

Use the tool here.

Mandel said he wanted Philadelphians to be able to know what every single city dollar pays for.

“That’s the kind of budget transparency we need,” he said.

He hopes the visualizations will lead to more informed community budget debates, as budget issues — like the proposed Actual Value Initiative for property taxes and school closings — loom.

What’s possibly even more exciting is that all the data, which Mandel requested from the city, is available for others to use on Github here.

Garvey said the next update to the tool will allow you to sort by expenditure or any other column you want.

We’ve seen graphing of the city budget from PICA, but no government agency has taken the leap forward to a friendlier, adaptable, flexible tool. Chief Innovation Officer Adel Ebeid told the Philadelphia Daily News that his office is working on a budget app but is currently checking over the data.

While plenty of growth is possible, this is a huge step in setting expectations for what is possible. Mark it as savvy and interesting that the effort is coming from a candidate in the increasingly ugly race for the City Controller budget oversight role. The office of incumbent Alan Butkovitz, who is known for headline-grabbing reports, does use social media, does post its reports online with an RSS feed, but the point here is Mandel is showing what a vibrant technology community might all come to expect.

Read more about what local political experts and others are saying about Mandel’s tool over at the Daily News.

Updated 10:37 a.m. 1/23/13 to add information about the city’s forthcoming budget app.

Companies: City of Philadelphia / Indy Hall

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