City budget ‘dashboard’ to aid transparencyPublished 10:23pm Thursday, October 6, 2011
The City of Niles will be eligible to receive $182,000 in revenue from the state under Gov. Rick Snyder’s Economic Vitality Incentive Program (EVIP) this year.
Snyder eliminated statutory revenue sharing this year. In its place, he introduced EVIP, in which municipalities earn funding by meeting best practice standards and implementing cost-control measures. Municipalities are eligible to receive two-thirds of what they received in statutory payments in 2010.
One of the requirements of municipalities is producing a “Citizens’ Guide” and “Community Dashboard,” which measures a community’s performance in four areas: fiscal stability, economic strength, public safety and quality of life.
Niles published its dashboard to the city’s website last month.
Niles City Administrator Ric Huff said the documents are meant to “aid in transparency of government to citizens.” But Huff is worried they may provide “more questions than answers.”
Huff said he is worried residents will get confused in comparing the citizens’ guide and the dashboard.
“They are completely different documents, and you can’t compare them,” Huff said.
The citizens’ guide focuses on the city’s $10 million annual general fund budget, while part of the dashboard overviews the entire $31 million a year budget.
Huff said taking complex financial information and putting it in a simple format was challenging, but he hopes residents will contact the city with questions.
“I hope it opens the avenue of communication with people,” he said. “We will do our best to explain our finances to everyone.”
The dashboard outlines progress, or lack thereof, in a series of key statistics and indicators dealing with fiscal stability, economic strength, public safety and quality of life.
The citizen’s guide gives residents information on city revenues, expenditures, fund balance and debt levels, along with outlining the services the city provides to its residents.
Other requirements from the state in order to qualify for revenue sharing are consolidation of services and changes in employee compensation practices.
The City of Buchanan and Berrien County have also published the required materials on their websites.
To access the City of Niles’ dashboard and citizens’ guide, visit http://ci.niles.mi.us/Government/Dashboard.htm.
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