Fiscal transparency

4 paths to fiscal data transparency

Financial transparency has become a rallying cry as states and localities open their finances and allow for public access in the name of government accountability.  Here are four ways state and local governments are fostering greater trust with the citizenry and easing budget analyses for governments and businesses. 

Miami’s financial transparency dashboard

The city of Miami recently announced a platform that gives residents access to financial records.  Working with OpenGov, Miami will convert financial spreadsheets containing budget data into easy-to-read charts and graphs.  The new website hosted by OpenGov will be updated with the most current municipal information as well as with budgets as far back as 2011. 

Additional benefits besides greater openness and transparency are increased reporting and analytic capabilities for government personnel. "Taxpayers now have unprecedented access to the budget and the city's financial data in an intuitive format that clearly shows how their money is collected and spent," said Daniel Alfonso, Miami’s city manager.

California’s open data 'build-a-thon'

California addressed open data when the state’s previous controller, John Chiang, along with Controller-elect Betty T. Yee, invited members of the public,to create mobile applications, databases and/or interface tools that integrate and process financial records in over 4,800 special districts. 

Dating back 11 years, the financial records released total more than 50 million data fields.  Californians can monitor revenues, expenditures, liabilities, assets and various fund balances over water, sewage, and health care across special districts.   

Utah open data catalog

The recently launched Utah Open Data Catalog contains information on crime, traffic, taxes, permits, school ratings as well as budget and expenditure information from all the state's agencies. The catalog has over 800 datasets, calendars charts and maps and is built on Socrata's open data platform. With it, users will be able to embed information directly into any website using data and functionality from the catalog.

Western Pennsylvania’s regional open data portal

Partnering with University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County will create a new open data portal funded through a $1.8 million grant. 

The portal will be hosted by the University of Pittsburgh in an effort to create an inter-municipal resource center because certain issues such as land banking, water purity and sewage have been too much for the 131 localities within the county to take on individually.  This “regional data center,” as it has been called, will begin releasing small amounts of data in February while building relationships with surrounding communities in the near future. 

Under the grant, the program’s leaders will work with localities from the county on releasing data on crime, city infrastructure, building permits and tax delinquency.   

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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