The Town of Walpole wanted to move beyond basic transparency to provide “big-picture” insights and relevant data from similar towns.
The Town of Walpole is fortunate to have an engaged electorate “that always has lots of good questions and ideas.” In 2017, the town began exploring fiscal transparency solutions that would not only empower more taxpayers to get timely answers to their questions, but also help them understand the story behind the numbers.
“Prior to launching the ClearGov Transparency site, we did a pretty good job of sharing our financial data in town meetings and on our website, but the public still had questions,” explains town accountant Jodi Cuneo. It wasn’t enough for residents to see line items in a spreadsheet, they needed more detail and a frame of reference, so they could get a better handle on how funds were being raised and allocated.
Citizens weren’t the only stakeholders looking for big-picture insights. Selectmen and Finance Committee members also wanted more context. Specifically, they wanted an easy way to compare Walpole financial information against other Massachusetts towns.
Walpole went live with their financial Transparency site powered by ClearGov in June of 2018, replete with peer benchmarking analyses for neighboring towns. And, because the local school district also uses ClearGov, Cuneo was able to pull relevant school data into the town profile as well, completing the fiscal picture for Walpole residents.
Cuneo likes the way ClearGov uses infographics to make fiscal data interactive and easier to understand. “The dynamic graphs are great, and I especially like the commentary feature. Being able to add a line or two of text to clarify a figure reduces phone calls and provides valuable context for residents.”
A custom banner on the town’s homepage links directly to their financial Transparency profile. Town officials also promote the site at public meetings and other events to drive citizen engagement. To date, six months after the official launch, the profile has generated 7,300+ views.