City Unveils Public Budget Tracking Site

Feb 4, 2015

Brooke Simmons, an OpenGov.com account manager, gives a demonstration of Pittsburgh's budget tracking site.
Credit Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

The City of Pittsburgh is taking big steps toward financial transparency.

Officials Wednesday unveiled Fiscal Focus Pittsburgh, a web project that tracks the city’s revenues and expenditures over the last three years, including the 2015 estimated budget.

It’s powered by OpenGov.com and lets users view the city’s projected and actual budgets by department, expense, fund or revenue type. For example, anyone can go online and see how much funding the Public Works Department received last year, how the department spent it and how it compares to previous years.

City Controller Michael Lamb said the site provides graphic representations of the city’s finances.

“This is an actual look at comparative spending year-to-year and month-to-month so that you can actually see where we compare to as per budget, but also, where we compare to as to prior years,” Lamb said.

According to Lamb, City Council contracted OpenGov.com to manage the site for about $20,000 annually. Each month, the city will send its financial reports to the California company who will analyze and upload the data.

City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak introduced the bill contracting OpenGov.com. She said the site has social features as well, allowing users to share budget data on Facebook and Twitter, and lets residents communicate with city officials while on the site.

“We’re going to spend less time fulfilling Right-to-Know requests,” she said. “We’re going to hear about what we’re doing right and we will certainly hear about what can be most improved.”

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto hopes the site will lead to a more informed public.

“We understood that knowledge is power,” he said. “Giving people the opportunity to have these tools can get them not only more engaged in city government, but also give them the ability to see how their tax dollars are being spent.”

Pittsburgh is one of 250 governments and agencies using the software, including the Pennsylvania Borough of West Homestead.