We are excited to announce the beta launch of lexbudget.org, a resource for Lexington’s financial data. We were inspired by President Obama’s statement that government should be transparent, participatory, and collaborative. “Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing,” he said. Our goal with this project is to bring this vision of transparent, participatory, and collaborative government to Lexington, making information available at the fingertips of our reporters, citizens, and public servants.
Our work is far from complete. In fact, we are launching this project early so that we can get the community’s feedback and guidance as we continue to build. For example, the education budget is a single line item for now, but we know it is much more complicated. We also know we need to do more work on incorporating Prop 2.5 levy calculations and that we need to use the final recap data instead of budget numbers. We are also working on incorporating prompt technology (like ChatGPT) to enable natural language-based interaction with the data. We also intend to make this resource available to other towns, to not only enable them to work with their town’s data but also to enable comparative analytics.
This project was made possible by a grant from the Community Endowment of Lexington. We are especially grateful to Elizabeth Brach and Nancy White for their support. The website was built by two graduating Lexington High School Seniors, Eli Olcott and Wesley Tam, with mentorship from Andrei Radulescu-Banu. Glenn Parker helped us get access to the budget data and taught us all that we know about municipal budgeting.
We need volunteer support to help us continue to build the website. If you understand municipal budgets or can build web applications, please reach out. If you would like to triage feedback and organize our work, that help would be welcome too. For anyone interested in real life applications of Deep Learning (using OpenAI and/or HuggingFace), this would be a wonderful opportunity to experiment.
Please play with the data and let us know what you think! You can try the tool embedded below, or for the full experience visit our standalone site lexbudget.org. — Nagarjuna Venna