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Durango to launch transparent OpenGov budget resource next week

Site allows residents to interact with city finance information
The city of Durango will launch its OpenGov account Thursday, giving residents information about city finances in real time. (Shane Benjamin/Durango Herald file)

In an effort to improve transparency, the city of Durango will launch its OpenGov account Thursday, allowing residents to observe city finances in real time.

“This is a response to one of our strategic goals, which is excellence in financial transparency, and that really ties in with OpenGov,” said City Manager José Madrigal.

OpenGov is a program that allows cities to display a budget for residents. It is used by more than 1,000 cities, counties and state agencies in 49 states.

“OpenGov provides a transparency portal, which will allow citizens to log on 24 hours a day, seven days a week and look at where we are in budget, and where we’ve been historically,” Madrigal said.

Madrigal said residents who log on to the OpenGov web platform may view whatever they want about city finances.

“You can look at sales tax, you can look at revenues. When you look at our operating expenses, it gives up-to-the-month exacts of where we’re at,” Madrigal said. “Let’s say you wanted to know how much the city collected in sales tax for the month of June. It’ll have that number on there, and then you can take that number and compare it to the past five or six years.”

Residents also may use OpenGov to view expenditures of every department on a monthly scale.

“You can even drill down to see what checks were written to whom,” Durango Mayor Kim Baxter said.

Baxter said residents who pull city information from OpenGov also may create their own reports and charts to reference.

“It’s very open, it’s very transparent and provides a lot of great information,” Baxter said. “We want everybody to be able to ask questions, find information and be informed.”

The push for transparency comes after Durango’s previous finance director, Julie Brown, was caught embezzling more than $700,000 over 11 years.

“There is a loss of trust in the community when something like that happens,” Madrigal said. “This is a part now where we’re opening up the finances of the city to everyone. So it really is trying to rebuild the trust that was lost with the embezzlement.”

However, Baxter said the move to OpenGov was unrelated to the embezzlement case.

“It’s a reason one would want to be more transparent, but in reality, this is more about the whole way our city organization interacts with our community,” Baxter said. “It’s so much more about the relationship between the community and the city organization than it is about any one specific incident that occurred in the past.”

OpenGov software also might help prevent clerical errors that resulted in million-dollar errors in 2019.

“I went through that budget six times, and we found multiple million-dollar errors in the budget,” said Barbara Noseworthy, mayor pro tem.

In the past, Noseworthy said, the city copied and pasted its budget from a word-processing program directly into a spreadsheet, which she feels was the cause of errors in the 2019 budget.

njohnson@durangoherald.com

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