The public is now able to easily access documents that show how their tax dollars are being spent on city programs with the online open checkbook the city of Phoenix made available on its website in December.
“It is now available online and on the iPad, so we are trying to be a little more green,” said Ed Zuercher, acting city manager.
The checkbook is available on phoenix.gov/budget and features virtually every document that provides budgeting information about city programs. The city uses a zero-based inventory of programs for the checkbook that began in 2011 to account for all the expenses on the budget and every item that must be approved each new period.
The Finance Department created the checkbook.
“The goal here was to offer the public a look at our expenditures by departments,” said Denise Olsen, deputy of finance. “If people are curious as to what the city of Phoenix is spending their money on, it gives them total visibility by department, month and vendor.”
The zero-based budget involves accounting for all budgeted programs as opposed to only accounting for changes or results from the previous year, Zuercher said.
The checkbook has evolved over the past four years to include more information about spending in more than 400 city programs to the public.
The comprehensive angle financial report, CAFER, is also available on the city of Phoenix website to provide the public with information on how the government is spending its money, Zuercher said.
The City Council made it a priority to provide comprehensive budgeting information that is available to the public. The city has made this possible through making the information easily accessible on the website.
Council members support the widely-accessible information offered to the public in the open checkbook and also support the use of the zero-based budget that is found within the website, council members said.
We are one of the only city governments in the nation that uses a zero-based budget for their programs, Councilman Sal DiCiccio said.
The city strives to improve the accessibility of its information to the public and to provide complete and clear information regarding their budget.
The zero-based budget still has a few issues that need to be worked out and addressed to the City Council for review, DiCiccio added.
Negotiated items and approved items need to be separated so that the public can see the items that could potentially not be included in the budget and, therefore, get a more complete and accurate budget summary, DiCiccio said.
He recommended the “three P’s:” prioritize, the public and protect the public first to be applied to the budget.
In the next few weeks, council members will attend various budget hearings to speak to the public about the budget, city programs, and staff costs, Councilman Daniel Valenzuela said.
“This past year we did 20-plus public web hearings,” Mayor Greg Stanton said. “This year I want to make that even more and make it the highest number of budget hearings we’ve ever had.”
The public is encouraged to reach the City Council by attending budget meetings and contacting council members through email and social media, Stanton said.
For more information, visit phoenix.gov/budget.
• Angela Crusco is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She is interning this semester for the AFN.