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OpenGov rollout puts St. Pete budget data a click away

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The City of St. Pete launched an online platform called OpenGov last month that allows residents to interactively monitor how the city is spending taxpayer dollars.

OpenGov can be used to monitor and compare current and past spending in various departments and funds and see what that money was used to purchase. The platform is used in 36 states among 270 local governments representing 34 million citizens and nearly $90 billion in annual spending.

“This is another step forward toward the government in the sunshine our taxpayers deserve. Making our financial data more transparent and accessible to the citizens of this city is the right thing to do,” Mayor Rick Kriseman said. “Making our city website more user-friendly was a campaign promise, and this new technology is a critical component of that. I hope everyone will visit StPete.org and utilize the OpevGov platform.”

Users can review historical revenue and expenditure trends over time, view multiple diagrams showing budget data and track year-to-year revenue and expenses. Residents can also view how departments operate within a budget.

For example, the home page of St. Pete’s OpenGov website shows revenue sources for 2011 through 2014 and the projected revenue for 2015. The bar graph shows a slight increase year-to-year in revenue with the distribution of revenue sources maintaining similar levels.

Users can also view two different pie charts showing where city revenue comes from. The bar graph view gives a better historical overview, while the two pie charts show an easier to read breakdown of where money is coming from.

The data also allows users to view how revenue is spent and how much of the expenses each governmental department uses.

For example, more than 45 percent of the city’s expenses are in salary and wages and public safety administration uses more than half of the city’s general budget.

Data can then be broken down into more specific criteria such as individual departments, types of expenses and an overview of revenue and expenses per department and overall general budget.

There’s also an option to look at the data per capita; meaning users can view data per-resident.

The OpenGov rollout comes as the city is launching an updated website. The new StPete.org boasts higher-quality images, larger fonts for major city events and departments and a new color scheme.

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Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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