By Brett Peto
Every financial transaction the Wheaton Park District has conducted since 2011 is presented in its new OpenGov portal, launched February 22.
Finance Director Rita Trainor said OpenGov’s interface is designed for the public.
“The product is very flexible and not designed for CPAs,” Trainor said. “It really is very user-friendly. They have a lot of online help you can use without assistance as well as online chat features.”
Founded in 2012 by two entrepreneurs and a technologist to help governments access and analyze their financial data, OpenGov serves more than 1,000 governments of all sizes, from cities and counties to sanitary districts and school districts.
The Wheaton Park District is the first park district in Illinois to use OpenGov, and Trainor hopes it’s an opportunity for residents to learn more about the direction of their tax dollars.
“We’re hoping they will use it to answer those questions they have about the district’s finances but never wanted to ask out loud or, perhaps, didn’t even know whom to ask,” she said. “We’d also like to hear from users about questions they would like to see answered.”
OpenGov offers a feature called Views, which function as interactive frequently asked questions. Current questions include the district’s revenues and expenses and how much of the district’s expenses are paid by property taxes.
In 2015, the answer was 35.6 percent, compared to the national average of 63.93 percent, according to data from the National Recreation and Park Association.
OpenGov’s data is deep, providing big-picture items like the district’s annual report and more granular items like the current year report, plus line items and vendor payments. Revenues and expenses are grouped by department and purpose.
“Don’t be afraid to experiment with it,” said Trainor. “There is a tremendous amount of information in there and it is very flexible. You can slice and dice the data to let you focus on whatever areas you are interested in.”
The initiative to launch an OpenGov portal started more than two years ago after Trainor learned of the service from the district’s financial software vendor.
“I was so impressed with it that I reached out to [Executive Director] Mike [Benard] to get him to consider it,” she said. “He agreed it was powerful and the rest is history.”
OpenGov represents a renewed commitment to financial transparency, for which the district was already awarded a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada last November.
“We are servants of the public and we receive property taxes to help fund the services we provide,” Trainor said. “We owe it to the taxpayers to provide them with information about [our] operations.”
To learn more about the Wheaton Park District’s OpenGov portal and see its every financial transaction since 2011, visit wheatonparkdistrict.opengov.com.
Published: February 22, 2017
Source: Wheaton Park District First Park District in Illinois to Launch OpenGov Portal