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budget map

A screenshot of Madison's interactive budget mapping tool, released Monday.

Along with Madison Mayor Paul Soglin’s 2018 capital budget announcement, the city introduced a mapping tool Monday that allows Madison residents to interact with finance data.

The map represents a geospatial depiction of the city’s 2018 capital budget. The capital budget covers one-time expenses such as building and infrastructure projects and is like the city’s construction plan for the next six years.

“What we’ve been trying to do is to take the budget off of or out of that 200-page document and create a place where somebody who’s interested can come and see what’s planned for my neighborhood over the next six years,” said Laura Larsen, the city's Budget and Program Evaluation manager.

Larsen said the new tool is consistent with how Madison residents might think about what they see happening in their neighborhoods in terms of construction. While the budget document is nuanced and readers have to know what they are looking for, Larsen said, the new map is meant to be user-friendly.

"With this innovation we’re making tremendous progress in making the budget accessible to the public, and we hope that people learn from it, enjoy it and give us comments about its utility," Soglin said in a statement Monday.

Budget information is grouped into four general categories: facilities, transportation, parks and utilities. The data is also linked to the city’s project pages with more information on construction schedules and design renderings.

“We really want to give people greater access and give them greater flexibility to do with it what they please,” Larsen said. “It’s their information. It’s their budget. We want them to be able to understand what’s in it.”

Larsen said the city is working on a separate data tool to let residents see the operating budget in a more dynamic way. That tool is scheduled to be announced simultaneously with the mayor’s announcement of the 2018 operating budget Oct. 3.

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The interactive data tools are a result of the city’s partnership with What Works Cities, which is a data-focused effort started by Bloomberg Philanthropies in April 2015 to help cities accelerate their data use to improve local government services, inform decision-making and engage residents.

Madison’s partnership wrapped up in mid-May, but the city is continuing to work with the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that aims to increase government accountability.

Larsen said the next step will be for the city to use all of its geospatial data, including police calls for service, refuse routes and Metro ridership data, to gain a better understanding of how residents are interacting with the city’s services.

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Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.