The city of Fairbanks announced the launch of a new web tool this week, and officials hope it will help improve transparency with the public about complex financial information.
The tool, called Open Finance, can be accessed by visiting FairbanksAlaska.US/Finance.
At a glance, residents can learn about the different types of funding the city receives, and, with a few simple clicks, where that money is sent.
Open Finance is about as real-time as government gets. The program is attached to the city’s financial system and updates automatically at the beginning of each week.
Users can see the city’s budget, revenues, expenditures and payroll in simple graphics, which include what the city budgeted for each category and what was spent or received.
There are even options to view the information as a pie chart, a bar chart or to compare the different categories over time.
The user-friendly nature of the program is a major selling point for city Chief of Staff Mike Meeks, who said, “Make it easy and they’ll use it. Make it hard and they won’t.”
Options also exist to delve more deeply into the city’s finances. For example, those who want more detailed information can explore the “Entire Ledger” under the “Checkbook” link, where individual expenses are listed.
City Communications Director Teal Soden said many residents already look online for information about the city and that Open Finance is a faster way for them to get it. Previously, residents could look at the city’s yearly budget documents on the website and submit a public information request to learn about the status of different financial items.
“However, now residents have a more convenient and faster way to obtain that information. This may also save a bit of time for employees that previously fulfilled requests for financial information,” she said.
It’s possible to either use the “Explore” function to browse the different budget categories or to search for specific budget items. If a resident is curious about how much revenue the city has collected from marijuana taxes, they can either use the “Explore” function under “Revenue Budget,” or they can search for “marijuana” directly.
Open Finance was offered as an add-on from the city’s financial program provider, Tyler Technologies. The new tool was paid for out of the city’s information technology budget, as part of their payment for their Munis program.
Contact Cheryl Upshaw at 459-7572.