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With New Budget App, City Hopes Public Will Have Greater Say On Spending

City of Pittsburgh
Through Balancing Act, users can track their individual tax dollars and recommend capital and operating budgets to the city of Pittsburgh.

A new app lets Pittsburgh residents share their views on the city’s budget. Called “Balancing Act,” the program shows users where in the budget their individual tax dollars go and allows them to make their own spending recommendations.

David Hutchinson with the city’s Office of Management and Budget said it’s meant to be user-friendly and bring more transparency to the budgeting process.

“At the end of the day, [the budget is] a government document. It’s not something that’s incredibly easy to understand,” he said. “I think this program really provides us a great bridge to get people comfortable in understanding what actually our dollars are going toward.”

Until now, the city has held two public meetings every June to gather input on proposed budgets, as required by law. But Hutchinson said it was hard to get people to attend, even when the meetings were conveniently located and provided food.

“We’re just finding that people don’t always have the time to dedicate two hours on a weeknight to come out to the meetings,” he said. “So, over the past three years that I’ve been involved with the budget, we’ve seen decreases in the physical attendance.”

The city aims to gather responses from about 3,000 residents over the next three months and will collect demographic data to assess how representative users are of the city’s population at large.

“We can see what populations we’re reaching and where we may need to do additional outreach moving forward,” said Molly Onufer, liaison with the city’s Office of Community Affairs.

Onufer said the new app is part of a broader effort by the Peduto administration to encourage transparency and public input in Pittsburgh city government.

Dave Hutchinson also serves as a volunteer on-air host on WYEP, our sister station.