ClearGov aims to bring town finances into the 21st century

 at the Boston Globe: “Earlier this year, Hopkinton resident Chris Bullock was deciding how to vote on a tax increase that would fund a new school. He wanted to know how much the town spent on education, and how that compared to other nearby towns — reasonable questions that any engaged voter might ask.

But the information was surprisingly hard to find. Charts buried in the town’s 230-page annual report were inscrutable, the money scattered across various funds labeled with jargon. Even after piecing together a few figures, Bullock had no way to make sense of them. Was his town spending a lot or only a little on education?
That frustrating exercise was the genesis of ClearGov , a startup founded by Bullock that takes towns’ raw financial data and turns them into visually appealing online infographics, along with comparisons to similar towns nearby.

For residents, Bullock said, ClearGov aims to make local governments more approachable, transparent, and accountable.

And for officials, the software should help them parse voluminous budget spreadsheets to better compare their finances to those of nearby towns.

The site also encourages officials to answer questions posted on the site by residents and annotate their numbers with plain-English explanations of the policies behindthem….

Easton is one of five Massachusetts municipalities — along with Athol, Northfield, Oxford, and Warwick — to sign up for new paid service, inking a $1,500 deal with ClearGov in September that runs through June 2016, according to town officials.

The town’s ClearGov page gives a snapshot of its population and median home values and incomes, plus graphs of Easton’s debt load and rainy day reserve fund. There’s also a detailed, per-capita breakdown of where Easton’s revenues come from…(More).