Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Opens Budget to Residents; New Software Being Tested Will Provide Up-to-Date Information on Web Site

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Opens Budget to Residents; New Software Being Tested Will Provide Up-to-Date Information on Web Site

Article excerpt

Byline: TIA MITCHELL

By next summer, Jacksonville residents will be able to view up-to-date information about the city's budget with just the click of a mouse.

The city is testing new software that will be used to track spending and various performance measures for each department. In addition to financial information, the software will also keep track of employee-related statistics and customer service data.

Residents will be able to access a version of this information through the city's Web site. It will list everything from whether the Solid Waste division is meeting its budget targets to how quickly the Parks Department is answering calls for service.

Members of the Performance Subcommittee of the Taxation, Revenue, and Utilization of Expenditures Commission were among the first to see the new software in action. Color coding identified whether certain divisions were meeting performance goals: red meant no, green meant yes.

Commission member Randy Dean said he has been working for more than five years on a way to better measurement performance in city government.

"This is a definite move in the right direction," he said after the presentation.

The city purchased the software in January for $125,000 from San Mateo, Calif.-based Actuate Corp. after spending several months researching various companies, said Heath Beach, the city's assistant budget officer.

There were some bugs that hindered the initial installation, Beach said, then the tenuous budget deliberations took attention away from the project. Now it's back on the front burner, although only two departments are in the testing phase: Public Works and Recreation, and Community Services.

The goal is to have the software fully functional by February, and city leaders say the information will be useful after budget deliberations begin on the 2010-11 fiscal year a few months later.

Steve Rankin, program director for Jacksonville Community Council Inc., said a recent study of the city's financial future encouraged more accountability through increased transparency and performance benchmarks. …

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