The mayor of Plattsburgh has demonstrated a new system the city is rolling out that will allow the public greater access to review its finances.
In March, representatives from OpenGov, a technology company that provides cloud-based budgeting software to education and governmental agencies across the U.S., demonstrated its software system for planning and budgeting to Plattsburgh officials and the public. City officials decided on a scaled back version of what was presented and inked a seven-year contract in October. The system allows city officials and the public to access and view Plattsburgh’s budget information including overtime and payroll costs for individual departments.
Thursday evening, Democratic Mayor Colin Read explained that the system is now active as he projected the city’s webpage on a screen. “Obviously this is a work in progress, consider maybe a beta version. These numbers are actually quite current. The numbers were revised last just a couple of days ago. In the future, those chart of accounts will go from OpenGov, right into Munis and pull the data out on a day-to-day daily basis. We're not quite doing that full integration yet. So it's still in beta but by January, by next month, it will be fully operational, but this data is current as of just a couple of days ago.”
The mayor then accessed the monthly revenue and expenses page. “As I hover across different items here it will show you where revenue and expenses were are matching up. I'm going to drill down to the General Fund, which we're often looking at more closely because that's the one that identifies property taxes. Judging by the blue here that says that we haven't hit our total budget yet. Go farther down and you can see by the red that fire is actually over their budget already by this time this year whereas police might be about on budget by the end of the year. If we click on any of these items as we go through it will in the final version take us to additional information.”
Ward 1 Democrat Rachelle Armstrong wanted clarification that some areas of the site are accessible only to the mayor and city councilors. "That's for public consumption, what we're seeing right there on our website. But then there are other functions that the council will be able to access by using their...."
Councilor Ensel: "Password."
Mayor Read explained that’s due in part to confidentiality issues. “We're hoping that at some point the information available to them will be able to drill down to individual personnel levels and things that under confidentiality aren't allowed to be released to the public because they're issues involving an individual person.”
Ward 4 Republican Peter Ensel asked City Chamberlain Richard Marks how often the information will be updated. “Do you plan on having some sort of schedule like where it'll be updated every two weeks, every month?
City Chamberlain Richard Marks: “It's a batch process and we can automatically set up probably after the end of the day.”
Ward 2 Democrat Mike Kelly says the charts and graphs help illuminate how budgeting works. “Hopefully the taxpayers will see where their money is going and will understand and will be excited and will be able to offer suggestions, that'd be the best thing. And we talk about numbers often and compare expenses to revenue, but there it is presented graphically for you. So I can't help but think that people will benefit from that and will enjoy being able to see where their money's spent.”
Full integration of OpenGov is expected to be completed in January and the city’s fiscal data will be updated daily.