In a move that’s sure to please government watchdogs and policy geeks of every stripe is an amendment to this year’s proposed 2016-2016 budget requiring all state agencies and each administrative subdivision of the state (this includes each county, city, town, and village government entity and each of the state’s 115 school districts) to consolidate their annual budget and expenditure information into a single online database which can be easily accessed by the public.
The goal is to provide an easy-to-use resource to show folks exactly how their tax dollars are being spent at both the state and local levels. Just where do all those billions go, exactly? Kind of makes you wonder why this was never done before.
The language calls for the creation of a “state budgetary transparency website” that will contain all agency budgetary and spending data for each State agency for each fiscal year beginning with 2015-2016 data. This central database is to be developed in coordination with the Office of the State Controller, the Office of State Budget and Management, and the Office of the State Chief Information Officer, as well as with the technology departments of each local government and school district.
Data entered into a local agency information system will be transmitted to a common repository owned and maintained by the Local Government Commission. The final information system is required to be capable of comparing and reporting on data from all local agencies and individual local governments and school districts must include in their interface a link sending users to the state’s budget website.
Amendment 18 requires that the websites be:
- User-friendly with easy-to-use search features and data provided in formats that can be readily downloaded and analyzed by the public
- Include budgeted amounts and actual expenditures for each State agency or local entity budget code, and
- Include information on receipts and expenditures from and to all sources, including vendor payments, updated on a monthly basis.
The entire proposed system — database, website and network protocols — is required to be operational by April 2016.
“Unfortunately, even within state government we have a lot of different systems that don’t talk to each other as well as they should, and it’s a struggle to present data in a consistent and comprehensive way,” said State Budget Director Lee Roberts.
Anyone familiar with enterprise-wide information systems knows that these projects can be notorious for their complexity, mission creep, cost overruns, deadline extensions and change fatigue.
At present, there is no specific funding allocation for the project, but Becki Gray, Vice President for Outreach at the John Locke Foundation, points out in a July 21 article that the state has plenty of money for such an undertaking. “The House budget allocates over $6 million in both recurring and non-recurring funds for IT modernization over the two year budget” says Gray. “The Senate budget allocates over $16 million in both recurring and non-recurring funds for IT modernization over the two year budget. Both say it’s ‘to support the state’s IT modernization efforts.’”