Exceeding State Transparency Requirements in Washington City, Utah
Like many cities across the country, Washington City, Utah faces an ever-increasing workload with limited personnel. Among the strains, staff time had been duplicative and cumbersome external reporting was necessary to meet the specific requirements of the state transparency initiative, Utah Transparency.
State law in Utah requires that the Division of Finance and Utah Transparency Advisory Board oversee a transparency website to ensure that state and local government financial information is available to the public. The site, www.utah.gov/transparency, includes data from state and local governments, school districts, and special service districts. Municipalities must update their expense and revenue data on the site at least quarterly.
With the state’s transparency site containing only quarterly figures, Washington City Administrative Services Director, Kimberly Ruesch thought the data there is largely stagnant. Further, because the site’s data only exists at a transactional level, it is confusing for the end user. In Washington City, this resulted in an increase in public requests for information. Internally, reporting processes had to be duplicated to conform with state standards as well as the City’s own Chart of Accounts.
Ruesch and her team partnered with OpenGov to save staff time, improve reporting efficiencies, and improve upon the data the City shared through Utah Transparency. “OpenGov transformed the way we processed and shared our information,” she said. Indeed, one of the largest benefits of the OpenGov platform for Ruesch’s team was its automated process that converted the City’s Chart of Accounts to the state’s standard while also offering visualized data.
This automation quickly produced monthly reports instead of the required quarterly ones, allowing citizens to access information sooner. OpenGov provides the public with “one-stop shopping” due to the interactive detail and easy-to-understand visuals that are now mapped out to the state’s uniform Chart of Accounts. The user-friendly nature of the platform has reduced the number of public information requests Washington City staff receives, as staff can refer citizens to the monthly reports available on the City’s OpenGov transparency site.
“Our goal is to opt out of the state reporting requirements because our own system is doing it from our own website,” Ruesch said. In addition to this time-saving possibility, Washington City has seen its reporting process streamlined in other ways through the use of OpenGov. The City, for example, no longer produces or prints hard copies of monthly financial reports – it is all done online in OpenGov. Whereas multiple departments used to produce duplicative reports with the same data, now all reports are created with a single upload, reducing staff reporting time spent from hours to minutes. This newfound time enables staff to focus more on analyzing the information.
OpenGov streamlined time-consuming external reporting efforts by automating the process that converted the City’s Chart of Accounts to Utah’s state standards. More frequent monthly reports provided citizens with earlier access to information, while easy-to-understand visualizations reduced the number of public records requests that came from Utah’s static and cumbersome site.
Reusch provides greater detail on how Washington City successfully leveraged technology to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in the webinar, Do More with Less:5 Successful Strategies from Finance Leaders.
Category: Customer Story