Balancing App


If government is about taxing and spending, responsive government is about doing so in a manner reflecting citizens’ priorities.

Many cities have published budgets online, but the new app “Balancing Act” does something a bit different: it helps citizens get a feel for the budgeting process right from their phones. From

This app – called Balancing Act, developed by Engaged Public and Causelabs – is an interactive infographic that allows users to tweak the numbers and see how the budget is affected. Users can see that increasing a city’s parks and recreation budget creates a budget deficit, meaning either other services need to be scaled back or taxes must be increased to cover the new costs. A generic simulation allows anyone to play with the tool and see how balancing a budget is a game of compromises.

In Colorado, you can plug in your personal demographic information and get a sense of where your own tax dollars are going – a “Taxpayer Receipt,” as the app is called. These apps, in use in Colorado and Hartford, CT, don’t get too far into the budgeting weeds, but they demonstrate the old TNSTAAFL principle (“there’s no such thing as a free lunch”), and help citizens think about what’s important to them and their communities.

Read more about these apps at, Fast Company, or this statement from Chris Adams, president of Engaged Public.  And take some time to explore them yourself.

Contributor: Ben Peterson, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, MPP Candidate ’16.

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