Atherton, California Saves Time and Improves Communication with OpenGov

POPULATION: 7,000  |  AGENCY TYPE: Town  |  ANNUAL BUDGET: $16 million

Atherton, California Saves Time and Improves Communication with OpenGov

Located in San Mateo County 30 miles south of San Francisco, the Town of Atherton is known as one of the wealthiest cities in the United States. The town’s relatively small size did not make it immune to communication challenges between town management, council members, and residents. Atherton’s town leadership sought to advance its goal of clearly communicating its processes and priorities with the city council and its approximately 7,000 residents.


Traditional Budget Document Fails to Engage Community


Communicating budget and financial data can be quite a chore, even for smaller municipalities. Each year, Atherton publishes a 200-page town budget that it prints and distributes within the organization and distributes as a PDF for the community. City Manager George Rodericks and his team spend hundreds of hours creating this document, and they knew it was not always optimizing understanding and engagement among residents and council members.

“Our budget book contains some of the town’s most important information: taxes, policies, and priorities – it’s what we do,” Rodericks stated. “But it is difficult to engage our council with a cumbersome budget book, and we’d be lucky if a citizen read it at all.”

As a forward-thinking institution, Atherton projects its priorities five years out and wanted to engage the public in the process. The town’s administration tried creating more concise, two- to three-page budget documents, but was still unable to generate sufficient community involvement. Rodericks began looking for a communications solution for his team that could save time and also present financial information in a way that would engage both citizens and the city council alike.

OpenGov charts Atherton’s departmental spending over time, giving citizens and elected officials valuable perspective.


City Manager Implements OpenGov After Attending Conference


Rodericks attended a city manager conference in Southern California where he saw a demonstration of the OpenGov Smart Government Platform. This web-based transparency platform transformed public sector financial and non-financial data into interactive graphs that easily presented revenue and expenses by fund, department, and type.

“We’ve gone back and adjusted our business processes to ensure the data in our financial system is as accurate as possible. Then we quickly pull it out of our ERP and get the information into OpenGov.”
George Rodericks, City Manager, Atherton, CA

“It clicked immediately and the potential was obvious,” Rodericks said. “The more I learned about OpenGov, the more I realized how powerful, flexible, and relevant the software could be.”

For Rodericks and his team, implementing the OpenGov platform for Atherton was fast and painless. The town’s finance department sent its Chart of Accounts to OpenGov’s Customer Success and Government Finance Solutions team, which includes in-house finance experts with decades of experience in the public sector. From start to finish, OpenGov had fully deployed the town’s transparency platform in under two weeks.

Understand Atherton’s budget breakdown quickly, then drill down into the details with a single click.


City Makes it Easy for Residents and Staff to Access Information


After publishing its OpenGov platform publicly, Atherton immediately began using it internally as well. The software’s export functionality made it easier to create informative presentations for the council, and viewing the platform during meetings quickly became common practice.

“It’s easy to just pull up the site in meetings,” Rodericks said. “Do you want to see charts and graphs? Trends? The raw data? It’s all on our OpenGov site. You can see anything you want within seconds.”

“Citizens can see everything they want within seconds with OpenGov.”
George Rodericks, City Manager, Atherton, CA

OpenGov also facilitated better communication between the town and its citizens. The administration created a transparency section on its website where visitors could learn how to use OpenGov, view a short demonstration, and find answers to common question about the town’s revenue and expenses. Rodericks and his team also used OpenGov to regularly update to the community about ongoing initiatives and projects.

“Our residents can now get the information they want without having to go through city hall or wade through a complex Excel file,” Rodericks explained. “OpenGov saves us hundreds of hours each year by creating efficiencies in communicating financial information to the council and the community.”

By partnering with OpenGov, Atherton became more responsive and productive. Staff can instantly access important financial information and save time by relaying it directly to elected officials and constituents. The city council and citizens didn’t just hear about what the town was doing – they saw it. Now, the engage with it meaningfully and easily.

Saved views allow Atherton citizens to answer common questions from the sidebar.

Results

  • Increased Financial Transparency. 

    Atherton published seven years of historical financial information to its OpenGov platform.

  • Saved Hundreds of Hours. 

    The town estimates it now saves hundreds of hours annually by reducing the need for numerous records requests.

  • Quick Deployment. 

    With support from OpenGov’s Customer Success and Government Finance Solutions team, Atherton successfully deployed its transparency portal within two weeks.

  • On-Demand Access to Data. 

    The town provided residents and government officials now have on-demand access to financial data.

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