(TNS) — Elected officials seem to always run on the condition of transparency and showing citizens how their tax dollars are being used.
The Pueblo County, Colo., commissioners are no different and Monday they announced a new tool for their constituents that will open up the county’s budget and finances in a more direct manner than ever before.
Pueblo County has gone live with a budgeting application called “OpenGov,” which is on the county’s website.
“OpenGov is a way of bringing transparency about the way that taxpaying dollars are spent directly to the community,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Garrison Ortiz.
“We’ve been working very hard on this over the past several months, leading up to the go-live date.”
OpenGov transforms complex financial data into an interactive, digital format. The new tool gives the public access to the same financial information Pueblo County government leaders use when making financial decisions.
Ortiz said the application allows constituents to go online and look not only at the county’s budget, but also to give them a chance to drill into any line item that they would like. They also can see where marijuana taxes are going.
Constituents also can go into an exercise of creating their own Pueblo County budget and go through their own process of balancing a budget.
“The can see intimately all the pieces that really go into making the budget that we adopt every single year. I think this is a major step forward in the right direction,” Ortiz said.
When asked what would happen if a constituent came up with a better budget plan than the county administrators, Ortiz smiled and said it would be a good thing.
“We work for the community. We are the voice for all of our constituents, so we are open to any and all suggestions that folks may have. Any way that we can do it better, we are always for that,” Ortiz said.
In the past, Pueblo County citizens have been able to pull up the budget and consolidated annual financial report.
“But this is a really big deal because the actual database that we use to look at our budgeting and actual numbers is the database that this OpenGov application actually runs on,” Ortiz said.
Emily Price, a Pueblo West resident who attends most commissioners’ meetings and budget hearings, said the new app is great for the community who can’t always attend meetings.
“Budget hearings are usually during weekdays, so a lot of citizens cannot break away from their workday to drive to Pueblo to listen to the budget hearings. With OpenGov, they can log on anytime and see actual dollars and cents, specifically details of where their tax money is going or where it is proposed to go,” Price said.
“I don’t think the public is apathetic. I think they’re busy. They don’t have time to attend these endless meetings and discussions and arbitrations about where to spend the public funds. I think this will give them a chance to be more active.”
©2018 The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.