College of Marin’s finances now will be at interactive digital fingertips — instead of buried inside laborious 200-plus-page static budget documents.
Beginning May 23, the college is joining about 1,500 public agencies across the country in a Redwood City-based online service called OpenGov.com. Although San Rafael and Sausalito city governments already use the site, COM is the first public school institution in Marin to sign on.
“As the community’s college, College of Marin invites students, faculty, staff and our neighbors throughout the county to partner with us and provide ongoing input that helps shape the campuses into places that best serve the community as a whole,” said Greg Nelson, vice president of finance and college operations. “The OpenGov platform is another tool that we hope will broaden this participation.”
Interest in the website has grown among educational institutions following a state audit pointing to $175 million in undisclosed reserve funds at the University of California, OpenGov spokesman Michael Shanker said. The scathing April 25 report from state Auditor Elaine Howle “has a lot of universities hypervigilant about the value of transparency and maintaining trust with the local community,” Shanker said.
UC President Janet Napolitano has disputed the audit’s findings, but the scandal did strengthen calls from the public for more access to records of public colleges and universities — especially when those schools are looking to raise tuition, hike staff salaries or build new facilities, he said.
“It’s important that not just students, but also donors, make sure they’re getting good stewards of taxpayer money,” Shanker added. “We want to demystify the whole process for College of Marin and other schools that have to ask the public to approve bond measures for capital improvements.”
With a thumbs up last year on the college’s $265 million bond measure, Measure B, and a 2004 $249 million bond measure, Measure C, still on the books, College of Marin has a lot of taxpayer-approved financing to keep track of — even not including its annual operating budget and expenses.
“When they’re making investments and updating the infrastructure of their campuses, they want to be really clear with the community,” Shanker said.
OpenGov CEO Zac Bookman said the website service, which will cost the college about $20,000 annually, can be used as a tool for staff and the public to track everything from “a $10 purchase of classroom supplies or a $10 million investment to modernize the college’s campus.”
The service is available from the college’s newly updated website at fiscal.marin.edu/opengov or directly at collegeofmarinca.opengov.com.
Rebecca Woodbury, senior management analyst for San Rafael, said OpenGov.com has been a huge help in offering information to the public and also for communicating internally among different departments. The city also is in the process of using the site to report crime statistics.
In fact, San Rafael is so gung ho that large photos of Woodbury, San Rafael City Manager Jim Schutz and Assistant City Manager Christine Alilovich appear on the OpenGov.com home page.
“Using OpenGov has helped us display our financial and other data sets to the public in a meaningful way,” Schutz said. “A city’s budget illustrates its priorities and, ultimately, we’re working toward a budget that people can engage with online.”
By Keri Brenner
Published: May 22, 2017
Source: Marin Independent Journal | College of Marin joins online service for budget accessibility