Financial Transparency in Copper Canyon:
Even Small Cities Can Do It
Copper Canyon, a small city near Denton (population 1,310), is a good example of the old adage, “necessity is the mother of invention.” The administrative staff of three — the Town Administrator Donna Welsh, Town Secretary Liz Penny and Court Clerk Cindy Fraser — do not have time to waste. So they implemented financial transparency to improve efficiency and productivity. The town now posts the budget, financial reports and check registers online.
Donna Welsh, who has 23 years experience in municipal government, agrees with Texas Comptroller Susan Combs' recommended best practice on financial transparency. “I really do feel that the more open government is, the more people participate. A great many people have lost faith in our government leaders, with the lack of full disclosure, especially in financial matters. The least we can do is to make them feel they can still participate in their local government and know they have some control when it comes to how their tax dollars are spent.”
Welsh acts as the Webmaster, and says, “We have to prepare these documents and scan them electronically into PDF files anyway, so it's just a simple step to post them on our Web site.” One additional step is required for the check register; Welsh reviews it to identify and delete any confidential items. “These are usually the same few items every time,” she adds, “so it doesn't take but a few minutes.” Copper Canyon uses Quick Books for its financial system and obtains Web hosting services, including the Web page template and user-friendly content management tools. These services, along with other valuable communication services, including e-mail, are provided by a private vendor, at minimal cost.
Welsh reports that transparency saves the town both time and money. Staff can now respond to most requests for financial information by informing citizens that all key financial data is available on their Web site. This has dramatically reduced open record requests, freeing staff from time-consuming searches for documents. This permits staff to focus on more urgent tasks and eliminates copying costs.
According to Welsh, “In this electronic age most people monitor their personal finances online, conduct business and obtain almost any information online. Government should set the standard for easily accessible, transparent records. Taxpayers want and deserve it. By making town records readily available to our residents, we are saying your elected officials are fiscally responsible with your tax dollars.” Copper Canyon residents have expressed their appreciation via comments to the staff and elected officials. As Welsh puts it, “Transparency is the right thing to do, and it's so easy even small cities can do it!”
The Copper Canyon Web site can be viewed at: http://www.coppercanyon-tx.org/