Petersburg Launches New Financial Transparency Website

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PETERSBURG, Va (WRIC) — The City of Petersburg has a new software program aimed at ensuring transparency in the city.

City staff said they are trying to put a past of poor government transparency behind them as a history of mismanagement has led to a lot of distrusting residents.

The new program is called ‘Open Gov,’ which launched Tuesday.

Before the new program was installed, Petersburg residents had to scroll through a massive PDF for information on how the city manages finances.

“It would all be manual going into our budget and manually looking at a PDF and pulling down numbers into your spreadsheet,” said Acting Director of Budget and Finance, Nelsie Birch.

“This will make a 100 percent difference.”

Petersburg resident Bobbie Massaquoi told 8News seeking out the city’s budget information is a pain, and she’s happy the city has taken the necessary steps to provide information in a more direct manner.

“This will make a 100 percent difference, especially for me because there are a lot of things I don’t know like where to go to look and to get information,” Bobbie Massaquoi said.

“It will give residents a good idea of making sure and holding us accountable that we don’t have this anymore where expenses exceed revenues,” Birch added. “We are managing our budget more effectively.”

The financial crisis looming over the city has residents asking lots of questions. The new software program allows residents to drill down on spending by department, including fire, police and utilities.

“If you like bar charts you can pull up bar charts. If you like pie charts or if you just want the actual numbers you get it right there,” Birch said.

The program also has a sharing function. If users need to see data in a spreadsheet they can in order to conduct their own analysis.

“If you have a graph that you want to show your friends on social media you can certainly do that as well,” Birch said.

“The other cool thing we are working with Open Gov on is providing monthly financial monthly reports to the City Council related to how the current budget is performing,” Birch explained. “So going forward, I envision there being a place where we have year-to-date bar chart to show how Fiscal 17 is performing relative to budget.

“City staff say residents are hungry for information, and it is so vital for the community to be able to see inside the city’s general operations from a financial perspective like they have never been able to see before.”

Click here to view the new ‘Open Gov’ program.

By OpenGov
Published: February 23, 2017
Source: Petersburg Launches New Financial Transparency Website