City governments often seem to be in the business of obfuscating everything as much as possible. Even the ‘citizens’ guides’ they supply (with full-color illustrations!) will be rife with the Requisite Nomenclature Learned from Business Management: “Performance measure tracking systems, as part of a departmental business plan, have also been developed in an effort to link fund allocations with desired and actual outcomes.” (Translation: We try to track the money with departmental goals in mind.)
But the city of Dallas has created a fascinating, interactive, online pie chart of the proposed 2011 city budget. You can click on any department in the chart, and up pops the basic info: total proposed budget, total staff numbers and percentage change from the previous year’s budget. But you can also choose a city department from a list on the left side (“Housing”) and get a more detailed financial breakdown (“Community Centers,” “Urban Land Bank,” “Senior Services”).
For number crunchers or for anyone with a vested interest in the city’s budget decisions (arts groups? library supporters?), this thing is wickedly clear and easy.