New Montgomery County Online Budget Tool Recognized as a National Model

County Councilmember Hans Riemer’s Open Data Initiative Shows Continued Progress Through Innovative Web Site

The Montgomery County Government has unveiled a new online budget tool that is already becoming a national model for financial and budget transparency. The budget tool is the result of a partnership between the County Government and Socrata, the company that provides the technology for Montgomery County’s open data web site.

Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer, the Council’s lead member for digital government and the chief sponsor of legislation to create a County open data initiative, praised the new tool that will help residents more easily find budget information.

“I am pleased to see Montgomery County working closely with Socrata to develop an innovative tool that will help residents better understand our County’s budget and finances and more effectively participate in the decisions our government makes,” he said. “We are working to replace the lengthy paper budget books and endless PDF files that have provided all of our budget information for years, with web-based tools that allow residents to see spending patterns and priorities over time, crunch their own numbers, and hold government more accountable.”

Some of the key highlights of the new budget tool include:

  • Allows residents to digitally navigate the current and past budgets with interactive graphs and charts.
  • Enhanced search capability and optimized for mobile, tablet and desktop.
  • Translatable into more than 90 languages.
  • Future modules of the tool will include spending and procurement data.

“It is a great step forward for Montgomery County to partner with Socrata and develop this pilot financial transparency tool,” Councilmember Riemer said. “This puts our County into a select category of local governments that are pushing the envelope of open government and civic technology and it is exactly the kind of initiative that I have envisioned as part of the Open Montgomery program. As the County Council’s Lead Member for Digital Government, I have used my budget oversight role of Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Finance to request a toolset for financial transparency. This new program is the result of those requests, and I am very excited by this great step forward.”

Councilmember Riemer’s work on open data has been described by Open Innovation Magazine, published by Socrata, as “a model for county council members across the country.”

The tool is powered by raw data from dataMontgomery, an initiative called for in the Open Data Act of 2012 (pdf), which was authored by Councilmember Riemer. This fall, the County Council will take up the Open Data Implementation Plan, mandated by the Act. The law requires all County departments to catalogue and publish their data sets on the County’s open data web site, and the implementation plan describes the schedule for publishing.