City of Tyler — Fully Implementing Best Practice in Financial Transparency
Comptroller Susan Combs visited Tyler, Texas, on Jan. 22, 2009, to inform local officials about a variety of state activities. She mentioned state efforts to promote financial transparency at all levels of government and the recommended best practice of posting budgets, annual financial reports and check registers online. Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass was very receptive. “We have always tried to communicate well with our community,” she said. “We saw Comptroller Combs' move towards financial transparency and felt that this was the right direction to go.” The mayor then asked City Manager Mark McDaniel to post the city's weekly check register online.
Tyler had for many years provided ease of access to key financial documents by posting them on the city Web site. Online postings include five years of budgets and eight years of comprehensive annual financial reports. Weekly check registers were added in April 2009, making Tyler the first city on the list of the 50 largest cities in Texas to accomplish the best practice of posting all three key financial documents online.
Adding the check register was done in-house, by city staff, at no additional cost to the city. The technology department used an existing report writer (Cognos Query) to pull data from the city's Sunguard financial system and create a simplified check register report. It took just a few hours time by the IT staff and an exchange of several e-mails with the financial department to develop this report. This report program includes steps to identify and delete confidential data, and runs automatically as part of the weekly check payment cycle. The resulting simplified check register is listed internally in PDF format. Rose Ellis, assistant accounting manager, reviews this internal report and then posts it on the city Web site. She appreciates the ease and efficiency of this process, saying “it usually takes only about 5 minutes” to complete the weekly posting.
City Manager Mark McDaniel feels that taking steps toward transparency can save taxpayer money because citizens can access materials online instead of requesting printed materials. It also allows citizens to access information they are looking for at the touch of a button.
The City of Tyler Web financial data may be viewed at http://www.cityoftyler.org/Admin/Tabs/tabid/77/Default.aspx.