Keene, N.H., Partners with OpenGov to Launch Data Portal

The partnership's goal is to provide residents, officials, city councilors and others with a more inclusive and transparent picture of the city’s finances, and round-the-clock access to the budget.

by Meghan Foley, The Keene Sentinel, N.H. / February 22, 2016

(TNS) -- Keene officials plan to launch a new web-based program they say will allow anyone to view the city’s expenses and revenues in an easy-to-read and interactive format 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Merri E.B. Howe, assistant finance director, unveiled the OpenGov program to city councilors during their meeting Thursday night, and gave a demonstration about how it will work.

OpenGov, which was founded in 2012 and is based in California, uses cloud-based technology to help local and state governments create interactive databases, charts, graphs and reports. That way officials are able to make better informed decisions, and information about an entity’s operations is more easily accessible to the public.

Howe said in a phone interview Friday the program costs about $8,500 a year, and is being paid for from the city’s Finance Department budget.

The goal of Keene partnering with OpenGov is to provide residents, officials, city councilors and others with a more inclusive and transparent picture of the city’s finances, and round-the-clock access to the budget, Howe said Thursday night.

Keene is one of the first cities in New Hampshire to adopt the program, she said, and the plan is the launch it next week.

The information will be available through a portal that will be accessible from a link on the city’s website, she said .

Ward 4 City Councilor Robert B. Sutherland asked Howe how easy it would be to upload new budget information to the system, as budget season is fast approaching.

She said any documents that are in Microsoft Excel and PDF formats, including the budget, can easily be posted to the portal.

“I think it’s important to present information to the public that is relatively easy to understand and straightforward,” she said Friday.

It also promotes goodwill and trust between residents and city officials, she said.

The Finance Department receives many questions about the city’s budget and how revenues are spent, she said, and hopefully the new program will help answer those questions.

The program uses pie charts, spreadsheets and graphs to display data, which is broken down by department. The city’s budget book and capital improvement plan are also available to download from the portal.

The idea of partnering with OpenGov originated in the Finance Department, and is something city officials have been working on, on and off for about a year, Howe said.

OpenGov has no link to the data, and it’s the responsibility of city officials to provide it and keep it updated, she said.

Once the portal goes live, the goal is to update the data at least quarterly, she said, but she’d like to shoot for once a month.

She told city councilors there are other communities across the country using the program, such as Fairfax, Va.; New Haven, Conn.; Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; and Orange County, Calif.

©2016 The Keene Sentinel (Keene, N.H.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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