The City of Santa Fe has unveiled its latest in a suite of transparency tools. This one is specifically aimed at allowing the public to better understand the budgeting process, particularly in the wake of this year’s deficit-solving chaos. What’s available now on the city’s website is just the start.
“The desire is to continuously, over time, update the OpenGov portal to allow citizens to monitor how the city is spending money,” says Mayor Javier Gonzales. “This will be a continuous work in progress, so what we see today is a first step.”
Short of taking the time to attend a finance committee hearing during the budget talks at the beginning of the year, residents would be hard-pressed to access this data, Gonzales says. The goal is to present it in a user-friendly way.
The website, accessed at www.santafenm.gov/opengov, allows for clicking on a few key questions (for example, where the money goes and where it comes from), and also enables users to drill in on specific topics around funds, departments, and types of revenue and expenses. A user can, for example, see how much the city spends on its meter-reading unit ($3 million) and see total expenses for the Southside Library (which increased 37 percent between the 2013-14 and 2014-15 fiscal years before decreasing 10 percent for the 2015-16 year).
For those looking to dig in even deeper into the raw data, the “share” button allows for downloading the data in a spreadsheet. The city also already posts the salaries of its employees and has a searchable contract database.
The new system will be powered by OpenGov, a cloud-based software company that’s been employed by 700 government entities, including the cities of Anaheim, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale and San Diego, and the District of Columbia. Santa Fe will pay $7,900 a year for the service, which includes an internal portion that allows city employees to exchange reports.
OpenGov will work with city councilors to train them on how to use and understand the many facets of the data available. Renee Martinez, information technology and telecommunications director for Santa Fe, says they’d be open to running a forum to train the public in navigating the site. She also recommends the help button and the introduction to multi-fund accounting available on the site.
Update: OpenGov's presentation to city council is available to view here: https://youtu.be/U7FQr6PchiU