Case Study

Colorado’s West Metro Fire District Receives Accolades for Driving Financial Transparency

About West Metro Fire District

Located just west of Denver, West Metro Fire Rescue is a full-service all-hazard fire and rescue agency in Lakewood, Colorado. The agency provides emergency firefighting and fire protection services, emergency medical services (EMS), community education and risk reduction, and building inspections and permitting in a 130-square mile area, covering nearly 280,000 citizens with crews at 17 fire stations.

Challenge

The West Metro Fire district lacked financial transparency around its data, required substantial manual reporting hours by staff, and was unable to promptly respond to questions about financial information.

Solution

A cloud solution that makes data transparent, easily accessible, and reduces reporting time–giving citizens and staff on-the-spot access to the information they need most.

Population 280,000
Agency Type Special District
Annual Budget $62.5 Million
Role Finance
Region West

Customer Results

  • Reduced the time it takes staff to generate reports by 80%

  • Increased accountability and credibility among citizens

  • Streamlined from four different systems to analyze data down to just one

  • Reduced information requests from department heads by giving direct access to data

What prompted you to choose a transparency solution?

A U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) report from May 2017 noted that transparency practices in special districts across the country were significantly lacking, particularly in the availability of online financial information or budget data. West Metro stands out for our unique desire to provide financial transparency that empowers decision makers and the public while also improving internal efficiency. More than anything, we want to be able to tell our citizens that we’re being good stewards of their dollars.

How has OpenGov helped you achieve transparency?

West Metro Fire established its OpenGov transparency portal to show area residents how the organization efficiently uses taxpayers’ dollars to provide lifesaving services. Just a click of a button is all it takes to connect the public and our staff to detailed and meaningful information. The public-facing site is easy to navigate and easy to understand. Visitors can find answers to often-asked questions about the district’s budget–not just spreadsheets, expense, and revenue reports.

West Metro Fire District Financials

The ability to drill down into the district’s financials in OpenGov offers the opportunity for users to access detailed or high-level information.

West Metro Fire Rescue Monthly financials in accessible visuals

Keeping information fresh and relevant, West Metro Fire Rescue uses OpenGov to provide monthly financials in accessible visuals.

“OpenGov is so user-friendly and any data can be converted into maps or graphs, which people like to see. The public and internal departments can jump on our website and look at our dollars in an understandable format, which has tremendously improved our transparency for the district as a whole.”
Glenda Aragon, Finance Director, West Metro District

West Metro Fire Rescue’s captains use OpenGov to answer questions about individual transactions on demand.

What other benefits have you seen from the OpenGov solution?

Our Board of Directors has also benefitted. They have access to an online financial summary that can be reviewed at any time. It has also helped with presentations. Before OpenGov, I would have to research the numbers and respond to questions at a later date. Now at the touch of a button, I can tell them where a dollar amount is coming from. We’re also planning to expand our OpenGov usage to non-financial data so citizens can track and analyze geographic information about call locations, issued permits, and other emergency fire services.

What has it done for your staff?

Prior to implementing OpenGov, we relied on static PDF reports, which required substantial manual effort to produce. Utilizing OpenGov cut staff time by 80%. Where it took us four hours, it’s now taking us 30 minutes to upload General Ledger information and generate reports from the system.

Internal payroll systems were also complicated and time consuming. Previously, we used four different systems to analyze data for each employee. OpenGov allows us to use just one. Staff can import data from an Excel or CSV file and easily view employee information without checking multiple sources. It pulls it all together for us.

Tell us about your recent accolades for financial transparency (congrats!)

During our district’s most recent accreditation review, we not only received re-accreditation but were also nominated for best practices for financial transparency based on our OpenGov portal. Being recognized for facilitating easy access to relevant data has positioned West Metro as a leader in the state and the district has set its sights on becoming a national model.


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