How to Drill Down Government Finances

Incase you missed last week’s online training, Full Disclosure: How Governments Can Best Display Financial Transparency to the Public, here’s a quick tip sheet based on the City of Chattanooga’s Open Budget App and how government finances is giving meaning to the trend of open data.

But first, what is financial transparency?

According to Socrata’s whitepaper, “5 Things You Need to Know About Financial Transparency,” this form of open data provides citizens and government with a 360-degree view of how public money flows from budget planning. Take the inter-related financial data set at the beginning of financial periods and frame it into to table, graph or overtime views – the way we as taxpayers want to know how budgets and decisions were arrived – and you’ll bridge the gap between well-meaning public servants and under-informed constituents. Seems simple right?

But how can you drive that richer data experience while continuously communicating the impact of important city or statewide initiatives? Learn from these four features in the City of Chattanooga’s Open Budget App to see how you can build back that financial trust in your community.

  1. Be in an open-relationship

Figuratively speaking of course, find a partner in your city that is able to display open data digitally and can help with marketing to the public. The City of Chattanooga partnered with its public library to “[keep the data] where it makes sense to have it,” according to Vickie Haley, Deputy Administrator for the Department of Finance and Administration for the city. A partner that can view the city data as a digital collection of local history isn’t a bad host either.

  1. Find your priority areas

With catalogs and categories drilled down to detailed account information, e.g., like the 30 offers in a “safer streets” initiative found on the City of Chattanooga’s Open Budget App, you’ll want to have a pilot agreement dataset that displays the top agreements from the media and citizen perspective. Providing facts about what the city is and is not doing will build trust with taxpayers – and improve internal efficiencies.

  1. Keep the privacy message simple

A constituent’s immediate concern is whether or not their private information will be released to the public. You can reassure them on the frontend that city officials check all datasets with a clear and direct privacy statement on your site. Check out the City of Chattanooga’s cool one-liner here.

  1. Always make it PDF

While many public sector organizations are going paperless, taxpayers may want to view their data in a printable format – remember, think in a manner that’s easy for the typical person to consume. What’s neat about the City of Chattanooga’s Budget App is that wherever you are within the app, you can click on “Get data” to view the entire document or download instantly. Consider this feature for a friendly interactive-experience.

For more information view the City of Chattanooga’s Open Data Portal here and get a better glimpse inside how to become the primary location for all open data utilized by your city citizens and be sure to view the on-demand training here.


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