City of Tuscaloosa/Facebook

The City of Tuscaloosa has launched an online financial transparency portal where citizens can search and see how tax dollars are being spent.

This effort will allow the City of Tuscaloosa to better fulfill Mayor Walt Maddox's core value of being open, efficient and effective by making information more available to citizens, allowing taxpayers to see where funds are budgeted and how funds are ultimately spent.

Mayor Maddox said,

We are strengthening accountability by digitally opening the doors of City Hall. Our goal is to improve public trust and citizen engagement by simplifying government. This is a huge leap for Tuscaloosa to be more open, efficient and effective when serving the people of Tuscaloosa, but it's only the first of many.

The first government to launch such a portal in the State of Alabama, Tuscaloosa made the step in becoming more financially transparent to taxpayers by partnering with Socrata, a software company focused on democratizing access to public data. Socrata's financial transparency portals help governments publish budget and spending data quickly, economically and in a consumer-friendly way. Rather than wading through hundreds of pages of scanned financial information, citizens see budget and spending data in a consumable format. The charts, graphs and images are searchable and easy to understand.

The City has published accounts payable and purchase card information online but this project will make information more easily accessible and understood. Data published not only include detailed budgets adopted by the City Council but also near real-time financial transactions such as the accounts payable and credit card registers.

Tuscaloosa Chief Information Officer Chuck Cocker also said,

As this effort evolves there are numerous datasets and types of information that can be made available. And, it should allow the City of Tuscaloosa to have a canvas on which to paint our story showing citizens what we are doing and how we do it.

The site features include mapping and notifications; Individuals can see where permits are issued and can sign up for alerts when permits are issued. Permit data is updated nightly and can be utilized by homeowners, neighborhood groups, real estate professionals, developers, business owners, home buyers, among others.