New city website shares financial data

Greenville has opened its books to the public and residents now can track municipal spending through the city’s website.

Greenville Assistant City Manager Michael Cowin unveiled the city’s new financial transparency tool last week.

“We are really excited about this,” Cowin said. “This takes the City of Greenville to a whole new level.”

The tool is available on www.greenvillenc.gov and allows users to track the revenues and expenses of the city, so residents can see how their tax dollars are being spent, Cowin said.

“We are the stewards of the taxpayer’s money,” Cowin said. “We owe the residents a clear accounting of where their money goes.”

The tool is powered by OpenGov, a California-based company that provides web-based financial visualization software for state and local governments, which is used by hundreds of cities across the United States, Cowin said.

“During the past 10-15 years, people have had a lot of uncertainty about how government dollars are being spent,” Cowin said. “This tool is designed to bring visibility, openness and accountability to our operations. This is the direction all governments need to be moving towards.”

The tool is accessed on the greenvillenc.gov homepage. Clicking on the Financial Transparency tab takes the user to a page which provides an overview of OpenGov and tips on how to use the tool.

Financial data can be viewed as a percentage graph, a stacked graph, a line graph, a pie graph or a bar graph. Users can change the view at any time by clicking the desired type of representation at the top right of the page. Users also can share any of the data on a social network or by email and can download data into a .csv spreadsheet or a .png image. Cowin said the data also is presented in a user-friendly format.

“Not everyone is an accountant,” he said. “This tool makes the data accessible as well as easy to understand.”

Users can track spending for the entire city or can view expenses for an individual department. A city department’s spending also can be broken down to specific budget categories like street maintenance or vehicle repairs, Cowin said.

“Clearly there is a lot of information here,” Cowin said. “You could get in here and spend days looking at all of the data.”

Information on the tool will be updated every month for now, Cowin said. However, he said the city eventually will be able to update the financial data on a daily basis.

“This is just the beginning,” Cowin said. “In the future we want to be able to provide real-time data for the residents.”

Cowin said the tool is a good way for residents to better understand the city’s budget and operations.

“We want the taxpayers to see how their dollars are being utilized,” Cowin said. “We also want to give them information that will allow them to see what it takes to run the city so they can better appreciate the services that are provided.”

The financial transparency tool also can be accessed at https://greenvillenc.opengov.com/.

Contact Shannon Keith at skeith@reflector.com and 329-9575.

By OpenGov
Published: September 26, 2016
Source: New city website shares financial data