Miami-Dade County

New data tool makes city of Miami finances more accessible

City Manager Daniel Alfonso,left, and Mayor Tomas Regalado.
City Manager Daniel Alfonso,left, and Mayor Tomas Regalado. El Nuevo Herald

Want to know how much your Miami city commissioner spends on travel and per diem each year? Or just how much of the $64 million increase in police spending over the last five years is driven by the increasing cost of retirement benefits?

Now, the city of Miami has an online platform that will answer those questions and others by allowing the public to easily dive into the city’s finances from 2011 through the current year. The tool, created by OpenGov, was rolled out on the city’s website Monday but was unveiled publicly Thursday morning during a presentation to the city commission.

“The city of Miami is trying to be significantly more transparent than we have been in the past about our financial information,” said City Manager Daniel Alfonso.

Miami in recent years has indeed been accused of hiding and manipulating financial information. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has launched investigations related to improper transfers of money and the city’s transparency in selling bonds on Wall Street.

Alfonso said his administration is trying to change the city’s reputation by making reams of important financial information easier to access and digest. He called the city’s OpenGov platform an important tool in terms of analyzing how the city spends its money now compared to previous years.

The amount of information on the platform is broad, although to some extent it has its limits. For instance, while users can track how much the public is spending each year on maintenance jobs at Dinner Key Marina, they can’t see what specifically was purchased or fixed. But there is still a vast amount of information on the platform that can be queried, broken down into graphs and percentages, and downloaded in a format that can be imported into an Excel spreadsheet. Different queries can also be shared on social media.

The program is costing the city a little more than $20,000 a year, said Jelani Newton, an official in the city’s budget office. He said there are still some kinks related to the different ways in which various departments keep their information but the city is working to fix that issue.

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