New online portal opens window into Champaign's finances

New online portal opens window into Champaign's finances

CHAMPAIGN — Want to know how much of your money goes to the Champaign Fire Department?

Learn more about a public works project you think might have been too expensive?

Deep dive into the city's budgets, expenditures and revenues?

Now you can do so easily, thanks to a two-year effort by Champaign's finance department.

The city has rolled out a new online portal that, after a years-long revamping of its financial systems, gives average citizens free access to Champaign's financial data. A link to the portal can be found on the finance department's homepage.

"The city is pleased to offer expanded public access to the city's financial records through this new online tool," said Carrie Siems, Champaign's financial services manager and accountant. "Residents will be able to review every level of city expenditures from total spending by fiscal year down to individual vendor payments."

Right now, the portal only leads to this year's data, but staff are hoping to bring in all of the city's historical financial information.

It's been a long-standing city council goal to provide more financial transparency to citizens. As staff began to look at implementing a new financial software program four years ago, Siems said they also looked for a tool that was intuitive and user-friendly so anyone could find what they're searching for "without having to be a financial guru."

"We started the process of implementing the new system over three years ago, and this was a piece of that," Siems said. "We implemented the software in several phases, and once we did that we focused on the portal.

"We tried to look at it with a lens of someone on the outside and asked 'Does it make sense to them?' So we grouped things so it makes sense to people who aren't familiar with finance."

Many different kinds of information can be found on the city's portal. For example, three quick searches of budget, expenditure and revenue information turned up the following:

→ 24.59 percent: The share of the city's expenditure budget used to date, well within its goal of spending less than 85 percent of the budget by now — about five months into the fiscal year.

→ $148,001,377: The amount of money remaining in Champaign's budget for the year.

→ Health Alliance, Stark Excavating and Cross Construction: The top three vendors the city has worked with so far this fiscal year. Health Alliance is the city's biggest vendor, paid $3.37 million so far. Stark has received $2 million, Cross $1.7 million.

After a presentation about the portal, council members offered praise to the finance department for its modernization of the city's system, and lauded the new transparency tool.

"It shows so much of what you do and the breadth of work you do within the finance department," Vanna Pianfetti said.

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