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This AI chat tool helps municipalities craft budget books

The time-saving tool can even create the text narratives that accompany spending changes...

Massachusetts-based GovTech vendor ClearGov launched an AI-based tool that helps local governments more easily craft their budgets. Called FirstDraft, it can help with number crunching while also producing the narratives around those numbers, potentially saving hours and hours of administrative work.

The best part is that the tool comes included with ClearGov’s platform, though the company’s CEO, Chris Bullock, said they “reserve the right” to charge for it in the future.

ClearGov has nearly 1,000 clients for which it can tap into past data and current figures to come up with future estimates.

“ClearGov’s FirstDraft feature uses advanced AI to generate an initial pass at several key sections of an agency’s budget book based on data that is fed automatically by the ClearGov budget cycle management platform,” Bullock said. “It is well-suited for fact-based content, such as explaining financial trends and changes. And, with a good starting point, Finance Directors or Budget Managers can quickly and easily edit the content to provide finer and more qualitative details in a fraction of the time it would have otherwise taken.”

According to Bullock, the training data used by FirstDraft so far spans three years, adding that ongoing feedback from clients could eventually lead to more years of data being included.

The included narratives can come in especially handy, as they put figures into context to help sell the budget to elected officials and citizens. This part, Bullock claims, is where AI gets a chance to shine.

“ChatGPT is great at writing a history of a city,” he said.

Municipalities participating in the beta testing of FirstDraft reported saving up to 25 percent of the time, or up to hundreds of hours.

Of course, tools like these are not meant to replace human input in budgeting or to put software in charge of how taxpayer money is spent. Instead, they are designed to make the process more efficient, especially when building a first draft of the budget.

That said, we should expect more AI participation in local and state governments.

“I believe this is the biggest tech innovation since the Internet,” Bullock said about AI in general.

ClearGov is a venture-backed firm that has raised $25.2M from investors, including RiverPark Ventures, LaunchCapital, Gutbrain Ventures, Frontier Growth, Hub Angels Investment Group, and Kepha Partners.


GovTech vendor ClearGov introduced what it says is the first AI-enabled digital budget book software and made it free to its clients.

Called FirstDraft, the feature is made to reduce the time it takes for local governments to compose annual budget books. The functionality sources financial content from the agency's budget and automatically authors a clear and professionally written draft of key sections of the budget book.
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Action point

If your municipality has yet to (properly) digitize its operations, you should consider checking out ClearGov's offering and see what they can do for you. They've been in this business for years now, and chances are their software could help you run a more efficient operation. It is said that in order to manage something, you should first be able to measure it. And that's what ClearGov's suite is all about. Explore it and see which of their products could work for you and for your constituents.

The entire GovTech sector experienced strong growth in recent years, and if you're in the "software game" - you may want to contact ClearGov and see whether you can bring their offering(s) to the municipalities your company serves. Chances are they are looking for partners that could not only help them increase sales but also implement their solutions at client cities and towns. And that could be your chance.