Laura Larsen

Laura Larsen
Budget and Program Evaluation Manager
City of Madison, Wisconsin


Madison’s capital budget is big: $326 million in 2018, $1.1 billion over the next six years. But with the budget described in 200-pages of technical language, the city found it hard to communicate basic and compelling information on infrastructure projects like roads and buildings to its decision-makers and growing population.


Madison took its static, 6-year capital budget plan and placed key project data into an online map that’s accessible to everyone. For example, the mayor’s recent budget includes a new $15 million library in 2023. The map shows the location and cost of the project and is linked to a comprehensive city projects portal where engineers overseeing the project record their updates (e.g., neighborhood meetings, construction timelines, bid schedules).

The map is intentionally intuitive and collapsed into four project categories (facilities, transportation, parks, and utilities) so citizens can quickly see and understand budget decisions without wading through jargon.

In the future, Laura sees the city providing geospatial data on public transit ridership, traffic patterns, and the like to guide decisions on where to place specific types of infrastructure. Data on calls made to police and fire departments is another potential add-on.

Laura’s Job

Joined city in April 2015, just completed third budget cycle. Oversees budget development, internal audit, grant management, data, and innovation, and manages a team of seven.

Laura’s Background

Born in Sidney, Nebraska (pop. 7,000), the hometown of national outdoor outfitter Cabela’s. Bachelors in political science from University of Nebraska at Kearney (’08) and a master’s in public administration from University of Nebraska Omaha (’11). Enjoys biking, kayaking, and being a lonely cheerleader for Nebraska among all the Wisconsin Badger fans she’s surrounded by in Madison.

Startling Fact

While once living in Baltimore, was part of a championship dragon boat team.

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