ClearGov Demystifies Finances of Massachusetts School Districts

by Chris Bullock

ClearGov School District AnalyticsClearGov today launched a comprehensive analytics solution for school districts. The new ClearGov Insights™ for Schools platform enables school districts to better communicate with their constituents through easy-to-understand, interactive infographics on student demographics, staffing headcount and salaries, student test performance, district financials and much more. The platform also empowers district administration with back-office tools to quickly compare district performance against similar districts to identify opportunities for efficiency and make more informed and data-driven budgetary and policy decisions.

“Building public support is critical in today’s society.  There is so much data on schools available to the public that it is overwhelming for the average parent and taxpayer.  Telling our district’s story in a clear and compelling manner can help proactively address the public’s increased appetite for information and get everyone on the same page,” said Michael Welch, Superintendent of Dedham Public Schools.   In addition to Dedham Public Schools, twenty school districts across Massachusetts, including Easton Public Schools, Framingham Public Schools, and Wayland Public schools are now leveraging the ClearGov for Schools platform for increased transparency.

Utilizing publicly available data from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), ClearGov has created easy-to-understand transparency websites for over 300 school districts across Massachusetts, which are available to the public for free today.  Taxpayers can not only compare expenditures for districts year-to-year, but also have the ability to break the budget down into specific categories of spending to see exactly how their tax dollars have been used.

School Districts can choose to upgrade and enhance their publicly available transparency site with additional dashboards, including:

Detailed Funding & Expenditure Analyses: Allow visitors to “drill down” into funding and expenditure subcategory details.

Student Body Analysis: Offers insights into changing student demographics, including enrollment trends, high needs students, student diversity, and more.

Employee Analysis: Informs visitors on trends in staffing with a particular emphasis on educators.

Test Performance Analysis: Communicates complex test scores in an easy-to-understand format with powerful benchmarking metrics.

State Aid Analysis:  Provides a comprehensive view of state funding sources, including Chapter 70, Circuit Breaker and more.

“Education spending can comprise a large portion of municipal expenditures and there are many factors that drive school district budgeting. ClearGov for Schools helps school districts better communicate not only financial and test performance, but also the ever-changing dynamics they must consider when budgeting,” said Chris Bullock, CEO of ClearGov.

In addition to providing the public access to easy-to-understand financials, the platform also provides a set of benchmarking analytical tools to assist district and school administration and school committees in making more informed policy and budgetary decisions.

“Data analysis and benchmarking have become a critical, yet arduous component of our budgeting and planning process. ClearGov for Schools delivers time-saving analyses and powerful insights for our administration,” said Dr. Andrew Keough, Superintendent of Easton Public Schools.

ClearGov Insights™ for Schools is currently available in Massachusetts and will become available in additional states in the near future.

ClearGov Expands Government Fiscal Insights Platform with Open Checkbook

by Chris Bullock

Partners with Town of Brookline to Share Check-level Expenditure Detail

Wayland, MA (January 18, 2017)  – ClearGov, a leading municipal transparency and benchmarking platform, announced today that it has partnered with the Town of Brookline, MA, to introduce new functionality to its platform which empowers local governments to share check-level expenditure detail with residents. The new tool enables taxpayers and internal stakeholders to explore expenditures by specific transaction and see every check the town has issued to vendors.

“Our goal continues to be better transparency in government operations and improved access to how tax dollars are being spent” said Mel Kleckner, Town Adminstrator of the Town of Brookline.  He continued, “We’ve partnered with ClearGov to create a site that not only clearly illustrates how the town allocates funding, but also raises the bar on the level of financial detail available to the public from our prior system.”

ClearGov sources publicly available financial and performance data on municipalities to create easy-to-understand transparency websites for thousands of municipalities across the United States, which are made available to the public for free.  Municipalities can choose to upgrade and enhance their publicly available transparency site with more robust information and provide context through commentary on the figures.  Open Checkbook by ClearGov is now an optional module that enables visitors to drill down to the check-level detail on expenditures and identify all payments to individual vendors.

Brookline is at the forefront of a growing movement of towns in Massachusetts that have partnered with ClearGov to transform complex financial statements into clear and actionable fiscal insights.  The platform not only provides the public with access to easy-to-understand financials, but also delivers a centralized source of financial data and benchmarking analytics to municipal officials to help them make more informed policy and budgetary decisions.

“We are incredibly excited to support Brookline’s forward-thinking transparency efforts,” said Chris Bullock, CEO of ClearGov.  “Open Checkbook by ClearGov is a natural extension of our fiscal clarity and insights platform, which allows residents and internal stakeholders to better understand how tax dollars are being put to work.”

Visit Brookline’s ClearGov site:

http://www.cleargov.com/massachusetts/norfolk/town/brookline/2016

 

Press Contact:  

Chris Bullock

508-308-0440

 

About ClearGov

ClearGov helps local governments communicate and operate more effectively and efficiently through a unique fiscal clarity and insights platform.  Local governments leverage ClearGov to more clearly communicate their financial performance in an effort to build citizen support and participation through transparency. ClearGov also provides valuable municipal benchmarking intelligence to help government leaders quickly compare their finances against similar communities in an effort to make more informed and data-driven policy and budgetary decisions.

ClearGov Recognized as a Top Leader in GovTech Industry

by Chris Bullock

We are excited to announce that ClearGov has been recognized by GovTech magazine as one of the most innovative and influential companies focused on serving governments.  The GovTech 100 list highlights “a foundational group of companies (that) embodied the essence of the space and a good starting place to understand a market lacking in the attention it deserves.”

“We are humbled to be even associated with so many successful and innovative companies,” said Chris Bullock, CEO of ClearGov.  “GovTech companies not only represent a fast-growing market segment, but they are building solutions that improve the efficiency and effectiveness of how our tax dollars are put to use and, as such, improve the lives of millions of people.”

In it’s preface to the GovTech100 of 2017 list, GovTech highlights 2017 as a year of increased venture capital investment and solid exits that lend credence to the “forward momentum” of the gov tech marketplace.  Specifically the article highlights the “movement to open up government data” that will lead to tremendous value being unlocked by companies offering innovative approaches data analysis.

Click here to see the full list of GovTech 100 companies.

ClearGov Expands to Provide Government Transparency for Over Half of US Population

by Chris Bullock

Municipal Financial Sites for 18,000+ Local Governments Across 20 States Now Available

Wayland, MA (December 12, 2016)  – ClearGov, a leading municipal transparency and benchmarking platform, announced today that its InsightsTM municipal database now covers over 60% of the US population.  Through its unique interactive infographic approach ClearGov is proactively bringing enhanced transparency to 18,870 municipalities across 20 states serving an aggregate population of 200+ million people.  With this announcement the ClearGov platform now boasts the world’s largest public collection of local government financial profiles.

“ClearGov is on a mission to revolutionize government transparency,” said CEO and Founder Chris Bullock. “Unlike any other organization, we proactively provide enhanced transparency to the public using open data sourced from local, state and national resources.   We take great care to provide this information in a user-friendly format so all taxpayers, whether they have financial expertise or not, can find the information about how their tax dollars are being spent and get a better picture of how their local government operates and makes decisions.”

ClearGov transforms complex financial municipal data into easy-to-understand infographics.  Through ClearGov’s proprietary benchmarking algorithm the site automatically compares the revenues and expenditures of local governments to their statistical peer communities to provide context for visitors.  Local governments can upgrade their ClearGov page to enhance their financial profile with more current and granular detail and to unlock enhanced data modules to help better tell their financial story.  Over 50 communities have leveraged the ClearGov platform to better communicate their financial story and gather insights into their municipal budget in comparison to peer communities.

The ClearGov InsightsTM database also enables local government officials to easily create custom benchmarking analyses.  These comparisons against similar communities empower these officials to make more informed and data-driven budgetary and policy decisions.

“Governments are often criticized for putting out complicated financial information which is hard to understand and lacks comparative context,” added Audrey Hall, VP of Business Development.  “Local governments can leverage ClearGov’s platform to put those numbers in the context of the bigger picture to help drive public trust and support.  These municipalities are not just providing transparency, they are providing clarity, which is a powerful shift in intention.”

 

About ClearGov

ClearGov transforms city and town financial statements into easy-to-understand infographics to help citizens better understand how their tax dollars are being put to use.  Local governments leverage ClearGov to more clearly communicate their financial performance in an effort to build citizen trust and participation through transparency.   ClearGov also provides valuable municipal benchmarking intelligence to help government leaders make more informed and data-driven policy and budgetary decisions while opening the door wider to sharing best practices between municipalities.

 

ClearGov announces new Enhanced Demographics Module

by Chris Bullock

At ClearGov we firmly believe that in order to be truly transparent you need to provide context.  Without context numbers can be meaningless, confusing and even misleading.  Citizens who don’t understand the full picture can often misinterpret figures and the factors that are driving budgetary decisions.  These misinterpretations can be spread like wildfire through social media and cause headaches for local governments as they must overcome negative publicity and lost trust.

As we listened to our clients it became apparent that we needed to help them better tell a fuller picture.  Every community is different and local governments must account for these differences in the services they provide.  Helping the public to understand the dynamics that drive their government’s decisions is critical to gaining public support.

With this in mind, ClearGov is excited to announce our new enhanced demographics module.  Linked from the “Demographic Snapshot” on a town’s main ClearGov page, this new module contains four key panels:

Population:  Population dynamics play not only an important role from a planning perspective, but also from a day-to-day perspective.  For instance, towns that have a large “Daytime Population” have an influx of daily commuters that increase the demands (and expense) of Public Safety services.

Household Type:  Household Types not only play a role in the types of services a municipality must provide, but can also be a key factor to attracting new residents (and increasing the tax base).

Economic:  Income dynamics can drive the needs for additional social services on one end of the spectrum and affect the spending power of the schools, for example, on the other end of the spectrum.

Housing:  Home value trends play a key role in attracting new residents and increasing the tax base.

Click here for a live example of this new page.

This new module is now included with ClearGov Premier, our enhanced communications platform available to all municipalities in Massachusetts, California and New York.

ClearGov Announces Premium Financial Transparency Platform for Local Governments

by Chris Bullock

meet-cleargov-premier-visual-budget

Today we are excited to announce the next evolution of the ClearGov platform.  ClearGov Premier ™ is a powerful new service for municipalities to better communicate their financial performance and engage their community.  Now municipalities can “claim” their ClearGov page and unlock a series of unique features including:

Expanded Financials – Add current year and forward-looking data, as well as added granularity so visitors can drill deeper into your financials.

Engagement Tools – People need to feel like the government is listening and want to be able to ask questions.  ClearGov empowers local officials to respond and engage directly with visitors.

Enhanced Visualizations – Upgraded ClearGov pages enjoy additional trending and charting options.

Additional Funds – Go beyond general fund data by sharing enterprise funds, reserve funds and more.

Commentary – Cities and towns have a story to tell and our commentary functionality enables local governments to overlay their metrics with critical insider insights.

Events – Promote upcoming events and elections to drive community attendance and turnout.

Customization – Add a local touch by adding a seal or even embed ClearGov graphics into your local government’s website.

Our first local government to go live on the Premier™ platform is the Town of Easton.  You may visit their site here.  Stay tuned as we have many more cities and towns coming soon…

Pricing for this new service is based on the municipalities population and starts at only $995 per year.

ClearGov works with any municipal financial software and can be up and running in days.  The platform is built on the latest technology architectures and is mobile ready.

To claim you local governments page click here.

If your local government does not have a ClearGov page yet, please send us a request to add one here.

Now More Clearly See How Your Town Compares

by Chris Bullock

At ClearGov we pride ourselves on being good listeners and taking direction from our clients.  So when one of our newest clients mentioned that they would like to see a visual comparison of how their town compares to similar towns, we took that to task.

The result is that today we released a small enhancement that has a big visual impact.  Benchmarking is core to ClearGov and conveying the data behind this benchmarking is a key element of validating the figures.  With this in mind we have added a new stacked bar chart to our benchmarking modal windows.  Now whenever you click a benchmark metric for more info you will see this:

city-town-benchmarking
Clicking on any benchmark metric now reveals a stack ranked bar chart for peer municipalities.

This bar chart stack ranks the per capita figure that you are benchmarking for each municipality.  So you can not only see that your town spends 35% more on education, for instance, than similar towns, but you can also see how this stack ranks against these similar towns.

We hope you find this enhancement interesting and useful.  Please leave a comment below if you have any questions or suggestions.

 

ClearGov Advances Municipal Benchmarking by Incorporating Home Values

by Chris Bullock

At ClearGov we believe that numbers by themselves rarely tell the full story.  One must understand how each number relates not only to its respective historical figures, but also to its peers.  With this in mind, we decided to build peer benchmarking into the DNA of ClearGov.

We were told countless times that municipal benchmarking is difficult.  “There are so many factors to consider when comparing towns” was an oft heard comment.  While we agree every town and city is unique, we also know from experience in Big Data that benchmarking is never 100% perfect – but it can get close with the right data.

With our latest release of ClearGov today, we are taking a big step forward in improving the intelligence that we provide to citizens and internal municipal stakeholders.  After many discussions with local municipal leaders we’ve decided to incorporate Average Assessed Home Values into our benchmarking algorithm.

Municipal Benchmarking
Clicking a benchmark metric reveals what towns are being used in the comparison.

Traditionally our benchmarking model identified peer towns and cities by looking for municipalities with similar populations within a certain radius (measured in miles) of the town being analyzed.  While this model captured many similar cities, it also captured cities that had vastly different tax bases.  In other words, two towns could be close in proximity and population, but one town may be much wealthier.  This difference in wealth results in a very different tax base and budget dynamic.

So we decided to use home value as a proxy for citizen wealth to better accommodate for different tax bases in our peer comparisons.  The result is a vast improvement in ClearGov’s ability to dynamically identify peer municipalities and better benchmarking metrics.

The updated benchmarking algorithm is part of a larger site refresh launched today.  The latest release includes new animated charting, per citizen metrics and an updated site structure.

The updated benchmarking algorithm has been incorporated into all Massachusetts cities and towns.  New York and California will be updated soon.

 

About ClearGov Inc.

ClearGov helps the average citizen better understand their local government and how their tax dollars are being spent.  Local government leaders also leverage ClearGov to better understand how their municipality compares to peers in an effort to make more informed budgeting decisions.

 

 

Follow us on Twitter @cleargovcom

ClearGov Announces Enhanced Town Financial Benchmarking

by Chris Bullock

ClearGov was developed to help the average citizen better understand how their tax dollars are being put to use.  A major element to this mission involves benchmarking town’s finances.  In other words, how do you know whether $35 million spent on your town’s education system is a proper figure without a point of reference.  Benchmarking this figure against other towns provides that meaningful baseline for comparison.

Today ClearGov has launched enhanced town financial benchmarking technology to better identify towns for more accurate comparisons.  ClearGov’s new comparison modeling takes into account two key factors:  proximity of towns and population size.

When benchmarking Town X’s finances ClearGov’s smart algorithm first looks for other towns with a population within 50% deviation (up or down) of Town X’s.  In other words, if Town X has a population of 10,000, ClearGov will identify towns within the same state with populations between 5,000 and 15,000.

Next the ClearGov limits this pool of towns to within a 20 mile radius of Town X.  If this combination of population and proximity filters do not produce a minimum of five towns to benchmark against, the smart algorithm gradually increases the radius and population deviation to “widen the net.”  This is especially critical for small towns in rural areas, as well as large cities.

Our goal is to continue to refine this algorithm to ensure that our town comparisons properly identify true peer towns.  Stay tuned for continued enhancements in the near future!  In the meantime, please let us know if you have any questions, feedback or suggestions in the comments below.