City introduces Fiscal Focus website

Photo by Trip Peters | The Duquesne Duke. The City-County Building stands tall on Grant Street.

Photo by Trip Peters | The Duquesne Duke. The City-County Building stands tall on Grant Street.

By Brandon Addeo | The Duquesne Duke

The City of Pittsburgh launched a new budget and financial data website Feb. 4 in an effort to be more transparent in its spending of taxpayer money.

The website, titled Fiscal Focus Pittsburgh, features interactive visuals of the city’s income and expenditures, and can be accessed by the public.

“This is just the latest way Pittsburgh is letting the sun shine in,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said in a statement. “Residents deserve to know how every penny of their tax money is being spent, and this new data tool will allow that in an easy-to-use manner.”

Financial data provided on the website currently begins in the 2012 fiscal year and continues up to and includes the 2015 city budget.

According to the website, the city’s budget is estimated to take in around $514 million in total revenue for the 2015 fiscal year, an 8.7 percent increase from 2014. The city is estimated to spend approximately $507 million this year, a 7.6 percent increase from 2014.

The data on the website is color-coded and can be displayed in different formats, such as line graphs, pie charts and bar graphs. The data, which is grouped into large categories, can be sorted into smaller subsections when a user clicks on that portion of the graph.

Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb, who played a role in the project’s planning, said in a statement that Fiscal Focus Pittsburgh creates a “detailed view” of government spending.

“This platform takes the online monthly expenditure and revenue reports the Controller’s office has been making available to the public for the last several years, and makes the information more user-friendly and available for the public’s use,” Lamb said.

The website was developed and created by OpenGov.com, which has also developed websites for more 250 state and local governments across the nation.

Lamb told The Duke that the website will cost $20,000 per year to maintain, and data on the website will be updated monthly.

Fiscal Focus Pittsburgh began development in the spring of 2014, and after some “minor adjustments,” the website was completed in approximately three months, according to Lamb.

Zac Bookman, CEO and co-founder of OpenGov.com, praised the Pittsburgh city government in a statement.

“By transforming their budget data into an intuitive, digital format, [Pittsburgh] is demonstrating its commitment to efficient, transparent and accountable government,” Bookman said.

The site has not had any major technical issues since its launch, according to Lamb.
City councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, who also pushed to create the website, stressed the importance of government transparency in a statement.

“It’s Council’s job to make sure that the City is budgeting and spending responsibly,” Rudiak said. “This tool will not only hold ourselves and our departments accountable to the taxpayer, but help the taxpayers better understand their government.”

What do you think? Leave us a comment!