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City of Pittsburgh's financial data now available on website

Bob Bauder
| Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015, 11:33 a.m.

Pittsburgh city government started an interactive web portal Wednesday that shows in detail where the city is spending taxpayer dollars.

The public can readily see financial information online through Fiscal Focus Pittsburgh , designed to make data available and easy to find. But city officials acknowledge they are working out bugs.

The site reflects a $9 million budget deficit for 2014 but doesn't indicate the city covered the shortfall by dipping into surplus funds. The estimated spending and revenue reflects a $1.3 million surplus, according to the site.

“Over the next year or so, this information will become more detailed than it is now,” said Controller Michael Lamb, who worked with the Mayor's Office, and Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, who chairs the finance committee, on the website as part of an effort to improve government transparency.

Users can view and compare revenue and expenses in each of the past three years with colorful bar charts and number charts. They can post data sets to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook that show, for instance, the city spent about 70 percent of its $490 million budget on employee salaries and benefits with $194 million going to salaries and $154 million to benefits.

“Knowledge is power,” Mayor Bill Peduto said. “Giving people the opportunity to have these tools can get them not only more engaged in city government, but also give them the ability to see how their tax dollars are being spent.”

The data is current as of Dec. 31 but will be updated monthly.

City Council contracted with OpenGov.com, a Redwood City, Calif.-based firm for $20,000 to put the data into an easily readable form.

The city previously offered budget information online, but in cumbersome formats.

“This isn't just taking the budget book and giving you a nice picture of it,” Lamb said. “This is an actual look at comparative spending, year-to-year, month-to-month.”

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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