Photo Credits: CAITLYN SAMPLEY / AGGIE
Financial transparency tool discloses city’s spending habits
To paint a clear picture of the city’s financial data, the City of Davis relaunched OpenGov, a platform to interactively visualize local governments’ financial records. Using graphics to portray information, OpenGov intends to be user-friendly and easily accessible for residents.
“What a government does, how we operate, where we obtain funding and how we spend that money can be complicated and overwhelming to some residents who are not intimately involved with day to day government accounting or operations,” said Nitish Sharma, the finance director for the City of Davis, via email. “When we thought about how to make our finances easier to digest and understand, we wanted to provide a tool that was intuitive to use, extremely configurable, accessible to all residents, available 24/7 and integrated to our financial system to have it updated continuously.”
On Davis’ OpenGov site, the records date from the current 2018-2019 fiscal year back to the 2011-2012 fiscal year. Users are able to filter their search by, for example, expense or revenue and the particular department, to access information such as police department overtime or capital projects budget for the year.
The city also developed bookmarks, or saved views, based on citizens’ most frequently asked questions, which include “General Fund expenses by expense type” and “General Fund revenues by revenue type,” according to Sharma. The software also allows the option for data to be downloaded into formats such as Microsoft Excel. Moving forward, Sharma hopes to continue integrating community input into the development of the OpenGov tool.
“We want the current site to always evolve based on our residents’ needs,” Sharma said. “I encourage anyone to reach out to us to ask for anything else that they might like to be shown online as the site was designed specifically for external stakeholders. We anticipate bringing more financial and non-financial views and reports online in the future.”
With the goal of holding governments accountable when spending taxpayers’ dollars, OpenGov began as a Silicon Valley startup in 2012 during a time of growing concern for efficiency and government transparency. The company utilizes a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service to document budgeting and spending.
Now, with more than 2,000 governments using The OpenGov Cloud, OpenGov’s customer base ranges from local cities, including West Sacramento, Calif. and Palo Alto, Calif., to the District of Columbia and California State Lands Commission, according to the OpenGov website.
“The City of Davis joins a growing number of governments across the country who are leading a movement towards financial transparency,” said Zachary Bookman, the CEO and co-founder of OpenGov, to City of Davis News. “With the financial data readily available to residents and staff, the City is improving efficiencies and building trust and engagement in the community.”
The City of Davis is looking into furthering its collaboration with OpenGov to provide citizens with adequate information and transparency.
“OpenGov also has other pieces of their solution, such as budgeting and performance, that we are exploring in order to drive internal operational efficiencies,” Sharma said. “I am looking forward to leveraging these additional pieces as OpenGov has proven to be a very strategic partnership for the Davis.”
Written by: Renee Hoh — firstname.lastname@example.org