For years, if residents of Rocklin, Calif., near Sacramento, wanted to review the city’s budget priorities or see how those priorities linked to revenue and spending, they had to sort through numerous PDFs. While the financial information was useful, it wasn’t very user-friendly. And that didn’t satisfy city leaders who prided themselves on Rocklin’s long tradition of transparency, according to Kim Sarkovich, Rocklin’s chief financial officer and assistant city manager.
But when a city posts its financial data in a format that’s easy to find, read and understand, the payoff can be huge. That has certainly been the case with New York City’s Checkbook NYC. The website, which was launched in 2010, lets residents track how the city spends its money through a very navigable dashboard of charts and tables. New York was not the first city to make its financial information so readily available and transparent, but the Sunlight Foundation says it’s “one of the best examples of an open checkbook-style website that we’ve found.”