There’s a scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in which a salesman captures the attention of a crowd of Wild West townsfolk with the announcement: “Meet the future!”
It turns out the guy in the movie is selling a bicycle, but when you think about it, at that time in history, a bicycle really was the transportation mode of the future.
Something similar happened at Wednesday’s Kane County Finance Committee meeting, when Auditor Terry Hunt announced the June 1 launch of OpenGov.Com, which has the potential of making local government finance easy to understand, transparent and accessible to all 525,000 residents of Kane County, IL. To say it’s part of the future of local government and a byproduct of “good government” might be an understatement.
“This is a phenomenal tool,” Kane County Board member Cristina Castro said, following Hunt’s presentation. “There’s an opportunity for us to find information we need to make decisions, at our fingers, late at night or any time of the day. Our taxpayers should be very proud of it. It’s making government transparent.”
County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen called Hunt a “Silk Road magician,” because the power of this platform seems like 21st century magic for Kane County citizens who care about open government and government finances.
“I am grateful and proud of the work done here,” he said. ““There is an old expression that applies to government as well as to our personal lives, ‘A clear conscience is the softest pillow.’ Kane County OpenGov demonstrates that, not only don’t we have anything that we would want to hide; instead we invite citizen participation to help us innovate and improve what we do collectively. No one of us is ever going to be as smart as all 523,000 of us working together.”
You can find Hunt’s PowerPoint presentation in PDF form in the Finance Committee agenda packet, but we’ll share some of the concept here and invite you to take a look for yourself, come June 1.
Hunt said the OpenGov platform would cost the county about $12,500 per year. “We locked in the lowest rate,” he said.
OpenGov has taken off, primarily in California for government agencies as small as local school districts and a large as the city of Los Angeles. Here said only nine other government agencies “use it here locally,” Hunt said.
Hunt added that the “online checkbook is probably the single-most interesting concept.” It’s an improved version of the Kane County Online Checkbook which will make it easier for anyone to see just how taxpayer money is spent.
Kane County OpenGov will be accessed at kanecountyil.opengov.com.
“It’s all geared to be user friendly,” Hunt said.
Hunt’s PowerPoint presentation works well as an FAQ about OpenGov. Here’s what he presented:
WHAT IS OPENGOV?
OpenGov is a cloud-based financial transparency website for agencies and local governments — like Kane County.
OpenGov is an online financial analysis platform that will provide unprecedented access to Kane County’s financial information to all stakeholders — including local residents, elected officials, department heads and other employees.
OpenGov is a powerful visualization software that transforms volumes of raw data into an interactive, digital format, enabling better analysis and understanding of the current and historical budget and operations of Kane County.
OpenGov provides an improved version of Kane County’s “Online Checkbook” that will also make it easier for anyone to see how taxpayers’ money is spent.
WHY DO WE NEED OPENGOV?
The question is not specific to this particular platform. The general public deserves, and demands, greater access to financial information at every level of government.
Best practice policies developed and published by leading organizations (i.e. the GFOA, ALGA, AICPA, IIA) strongly advocate for greater accountability through easy access to financial information through the Internet.
When this initiative was started in Kane County late in 2012, it was originally named “Access to Accountability.” After considerable research, we reached the conclusion that the OpenGov software was the best option to reach our goals.
WHEN WILL OPENGOV BE READY?
Kane County’s OpenGov site will be available to the public on June 1, 2015. Today’s sneak peek is just a preview.
Between now and then, we will be concluding the final tests and implementing the newest software updates.
After it OpenGov is launched, we will continue to work with the developers to make improvements in the usefulness of the product.
HOW WILL OPENGOV BE USED?
In addition to the public reports, internal users will be able to access historical and comparative information.
With this information readily available, managers can more easily analyze trends and develop forecasts to assist in the development of more accurate budgets and have feedback to monitor day-to-day operations at their fingertips.
OpenGov training sessions will be offered locally to assist Kane County elected officials, department heads and staff become more familiar with the product capabilities.
WHO HELPED WITH OPENGOV?
As part of the ongoing effort to make Kane County finances more transparent and understandable, the OpenGov project is another example of a collaborative effort.
Over the past several months County Treasurer Dave Rickert, Chief Information Officer Roger Fahnestock, as well as Executive Finance Director Joe Onzick, and their respective staffs have cooperated with the auditor.
“My Office —and Deputy AuditorAndrea Rich, in particular — would have been hard pressed to complete the necessary tasks of creating the required transaction and financial data sets, developing and testing reports for analysis, and integrating the OpenGov platform with our system on a timely basis without that support,” Hunt said in his report.