February 14, 2012 By Sarah Rich
Frederick, Md.’s tax dollar spending can now be viewed online through a recently announced government transparency application that city officials claim is intuitive and user-friendly.
On Monday, Feb. 13, the city announced the release of Transparent Frederick, an initiative that enables the public to view city government spending data. Users can view the different government funds, how much was budgeted for each fund, and how much was spent during fiscal 2012.
“We are excited to launch this initiative and allow the public an open look at how we do business,” said Frederick Mayor Randy McClement in a statement. “These tools will allow the public to give insightful feedback to their elected officials on what they do and do not like about how the city is spending their money.”
Two features have already rolled out on the site, including “How Your Money Is Spent” and “FY12 Adopted Budget.” Matt Bowman, the city’s IT and GIS manager, said the budget application is the existing budget document, but the other feature outlines exactly how much money is spent by each city department.
“You see a breakdown of all of our funds the city uses,” Bowman said. “As you go into those funds, you’ll continually work your way down into eventually departments the city has, and you can see the actual account codes that are in those departments — the supplies, professional services, registration fees, etc.”
Three additional features are slated to be released in upcoming months.
Bill Adkins, the city’s network administrator, said one upcoming feature will show the public where tax dollars are being spent. Whether it is to vendors in the city, county, state or nationally, online users will see “where money is funneling to as we pay vendors with these purchase orders.”
Other features soon to be released include a city revenue search to show where city money comes from, and a feature that will outline property tax information to show what city residents’ tax money funds.
Frederick city staff developed the site in-house, but no additional costs went into creating the site aside from staffing costs, Adkins said.
The city’s new transparency features come at the heels of the release of Maryland’s online finance tracker. The tracker, released in January, allows users to more easily view which businesses have received grants, tax credits, equity investments and loan enhancements from the Maryland Business and Economic Development Department.
Bowman said the city did not look to the state’s financial tracker for ideas on how to model the city’s new transparency website, but mainly looked to Texas’ transparency site. In 2007, Texas launched “Where the Money Goes” as part of the state’s official open government website. The online checkbook outlines state spending by each agency, payments to vendors, travel expenses and other information related to government spending.
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