Douglas County Open Budget Invites the Public to Explore the Annual Budget
This week, Douglas County, Kansas, home to 117,000 residents, launched an Open Budget site, which provides the public with access to one of the county’s most crucial documents: the annual operating budget.
Until now, Douglas County shared its annual budget in PDF files, which lacked summary-level information such as total revenues and expenditures by fund, department, or sub-department. Not only was this information difficult for the public to access and follow, but it was also a challenge for the budget office to prepare. “Our goal is for Open Budget to replace the time-intensive process of developing and publishing the annual budget in a hard-copy format,” says Jill Jolicoeur, Assistant to the County Administrator.
“Our goal is for Open Budget to replace the time-intensive process of developing and publishing the annual budget in a hard-copy format.” –Jill Jolicoeur, Assistant to the County Administrator.
Increased Transparency and Improved Communications
Opening up the county’s fiscal information to residents and local businesses will usher in new transparency for the county, allowing them to easily communicate both the makeup and use of taxpayer resources with the public through charts, graphs, and other visual presentations of the budget. With the Open Budget application, it’s possible to get a top-level, bird’s-eye view of the county’s operating budget and also dig in and view individual line items. Some of the inspiration behind the site’s development and launch came from two other long-term Socrata customers: nearby Topeka, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri.
“Everyone at the Budget Office has been enthusiastic about sharing the county’s financial data. Allowing a better understanding of how public resources are utilized supports a safe, healthy, and efficient community with a high quality of life for residents and businesses alike,” says Jolicoeur. Eventually, Douglas County hopes to release budget-related data on a weekly basis.
“Our vision is that Open Budget will be a regularly visited and utilized application and a valuable source of information for citizens, elected officials, and Douglas County staff.” —Jill Jolicoeur, Assistant to the County Administrator
Doing so will not only increase transparency for residents and local businesses. It will also allow the application to serve as a valuable tool internally, helping County Commissioners and internal staff manage their budgets effectively. “Open Budget provides county departments, and partners in the cities and townships, with easy access to financial information that may have been time consuming to locate or require the assistance of the County Budget staff,” says Jolicoeur. “Our vision is that Open Budget will be a regularly visited and utilized application and a valuable source of information for citizens, elected officials, and Douglas County staff.”