INDEPENDENCE — The city of Independence has taken a step toward the council’s goal of transparency by launching a new cloud-based website in partnership with OpenGov Tuesday.
“Obviously, a big thing in (transparency) is finances of the city,” said IT manager Jason Kistler. “People want to know: where’s my money being spent.”
While the city’s budget is posted online each year, it is not very user-friendly unless you know government financing, Kistler said.
“This is more interactive,” said finance manager Gloria Butsch. “All the legal descriptions of the fund and uses are more pertinent to the budget document itself, which is also online, but it’s not interactive like this.”
The site, independenceor.opengov.com, lets users view specifics about the city’s budget, including comparing revenues and expenses from previous months and years. The site will be updated monthly, once the city has closed the books on the current month, Kistler said.
“It’s just the raw data that comes straight out of our financial software,” Butsch said. “So there’s no opportunity to make it different.”
The site also shows users specific figures on projects, such as Independence Landing.
“We hear a lot, ‘How much does Independence Landing cost us?’” Kistler said. “This way, we can make sure that we’re all giving the same answers, because it depends on when you ask the question as to how much it costs us.”
The site shows other data, too, such as what kinds of complaints or suggestions are made on Indy Works, an app that allows users to alert the city to broken street signs, pot holes or other city issues.
“We wanted to use this platform to show more than just money,” Kistler said. “Basically anything that could be of value that the city collects stats on, or anything to measure the performance of the city.”
As part of the data and graphs available on the site, crime statistics are shown — anything the police assign a case number to, Kistler said.
Information can be shared from the site directly to a user’s Facebook, Twitter, Google or via email, Kistler said.
If users want to dig more into the nitty gritty of the budget — or any of the data posted on the website — they may download the raw data files and create their own graphs, Kistler said.
Other ways the city has attempted to be more transparent include its meetings portal, which is available through a link on the city’s home page. There, people may sign up to receive notices and agendas of public meetings, including city council meetings.
The city also has a YouTube account, where interested people may subscribe to receive notices when a new city-related video has been posted.
The city records all city council meetings and posts them on YouTube within a couple of days of the meeting.
These methods are aimed at communicating with citizens.
“We try to communicate the best we can,” Kistler said. “But we don’t always know how you need us to communicate with you. We just need to know: What works best for you? YouTube, Twitter, piece of paper and an envelope, phone call.”
For more information: Gloria Butsch, firstname.lastname@example.org.