Stanton, California Successfully Informs the Public With OpenGov

POPULATION: 39,000 | AGENCY TYPE: City | ANNUAL BUDGET: $18.6 Million

Stanton Turned Sixty


With a population of 39,000 living in just over three square miles, the residents of the city of Stanton, California enjoy a small town, community feel. Residents and visitors zip through roller coasters at Adventure City, the local theme park. For a special meal, they might enjoy a sizzling steak at the Park Avenue Restaurant. As the city recently approached its 60th anniversary, its community reflected on the city’s motto — Community Pride and Forward Vision.

Despite experiencing years of commercial, industrial, residential, and cultural growth, the Great Recession challenged Stanton’s government and residents. In 2011, the State of California dissolved its local redevelopment program and over $4 million in funds slated for city improvement disappeared. The circumstances were difficult and Stanton tightened its budget. Ultimately, the community’s resilience and the government’s commitment proactive approaches produced a solution.

The city’s residents voted to implement a new local one-cent sales tax on goods, with the exemption of food, groceries, and medicine. With the new funding source, Stanton was able to balance its budget and ensure the stable provision of public safety services like fire protection, neighborhood sheriff patrols, emergency response times, and gang and youth violence prevention programs.


Stanton Faced Fiscal Distress


For seven consecutive years, despite significant budget cuts, Stanton’s budget was structurally imbalanced, including a $1.8 million shortfall in Fiscal Year 2013-2014. The city had declared a fiscal emergency in 2011 and by the Summer of 2012, media outlets reported that it was nearing insolvency. The city council and staff combed through the city’s budget to find areas to reduce spending even further or increase revenues. They tapped reserve funds, closed internal service funds, sold properties, and reduced staff levels by 33%.


“OpenGov made the process of going online very simple.”
Stephen Parker, Administrative Services Director, Stanton, CA

In 2014, Stanton’s City Council requested feedback from residents in surveys and convened a Blue Ribbon Commission to assess the city’s options. It recommended implementing a sales tax provision, which the city council unanimously decided to place on the ballot for the November 2014 election. Voters approved the one-cent sales tax, which took effect on April 1, 2015.


City Implemented OpenGov Following Sales Tax Increase


Stanton purchased OpenGov shortly after the voter-approved sales tax went into effect. OpenGov’s Customer Success team helped the city’s staff launch the platform, easily exporting the government’s accounting data from its Springbrook Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and importing it into OpenGov. “They made the process of going online with OpenGov simple,” Parker said. “It’s very easy. We extracted the financial information from our General Ledger, we verified the results, and we were up.”

Stanton’s Administrative Services Director, Stephen Parker, and his staff were eager to share information with the public about the sales tax they voted into effect. Thus the city launched the OpenGov Smart Government Platform and made reports publicly available to engage residents and provide access to the city’s finances. City officials and staff believed OpenGov would help tell Stanton’s story and help residents better understand the sales tax’s impact.

OpenGov visualizes changes in spending over time, letting you drill down for details or compare years for historical perspective in seconds.

“Transparency has always been a high priority for the City of Stanton,” Parker explained. “Having financial statements and budget available online is one way Stanton has shown transparency, but putting a decade’s worth of financial information online in a user-friendly format is leaps and bounds beyond the transparency that Stanton was able to previously provide.” Stanton plans to use OpenGov’s dynamic visualizations and saved views to make the financial information easier to understand for the public. The saved views will highlight specific information that answers common questions about Stanton’s economic challenges and the sales tax.


Engaging the Public with OpenGov


Parker said Stanton purchased OpenGov because “we wanted to make it very clear that we were spending the funds as the public intended.” Parker also expected OpenGov to be “a huge portion of our attempt to try to get factual information to the public. As we provide information, we’ll point to OpenGov so residents can explore the numbers for themselves.” In fact, after implementing the platform, there was a mistaken belief within the community that the sales tax revenue was being used to fund a new park. An OpenGov saved view and note allowed the staff to clear up the confusion and explain the park’s constructed was funded using restricted Proposition 84 Grant Special Revenue funds, RDA Bonds, and Park-in-Lieu Capital Projects funds.


“OpenGov is a great way to show how funds from the voter-approved tax are actually being spent.”
Stephen Parker, Administrative Services Director, Stanton, CA

Results

  • Engagement Among Difficulty.

    Amid a period of fiscal distress and following a sales tax increase, Stanton, California engaged its citizens on an unprecedented level with OpenGov.

  • Provided Insightful Visualizations.

    Using saved views and the ability to quickly drill down into visualizations, the city provided deeper insights into used new tax revenue.

  • Corrected Misinformation.

    Provided access to information that provided accurate information around sales tax revenue and dispelled misinformation.

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