The CityWatch initiative is Augusta's positive response to the need for information about various publicly-funded projects and budgets. Technology is an important and vital tool in this effort to actively make government records available to the public. Through this initiative, Augusta is endeavoring to share information regarding how the public's money is used to fund operations and the capital projects that are conducted by the city. To summarize, CityWatch represents a concerted effort on the part of Augusta to increase transparency across the government and provide the citizens with tools that enable them to see how tax dollars are being spent.
The key components of the CityWatch effort are:
- ProjectWatch: This initiative enables citizens to search for Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), Stormwater, Utilities, and Transportation Investment Act (TIA - also known as TSPLOST) projects. Each project should include information describing the purpose of the project, the budget of the project, and its current status. For many projects there will also be media such as photographs, charts, and documents that provide insight into the project without requiring the user to understand financial or engineering concepts. The end goal of ProjectWatch is to provide the public with a customer-friendly interface that is easy to use and understand. The mission of the various City of Augusta departments is to keep project information up-to-date so that citizens will know within a reasonably short time frame when projects are expected to start and finish, and what major events are occurring as projects move toward completion. Project status and associated "narrative" information will be updated on an ongoing basis by the departments that are responsible for implementing projects, and project funding information will be updated on a quarterly basis in order to coincide with the release of quarterly updates to the Augusta Commission.
- BudgetWatch: This initiative enables citizens to search for information related to how the city makes use of its funds. BudgetWatch provides the ability to interactively search budgets and expenses for current and past years. For key budget figures there will be charts and graphs that provide important insight into the project without requiring the user to understand finance or accounting. Like ProjectWatch, the goal is to provide the public with a customer-friendly interface that is easy to use and understand.
CityWatch marks an important milestone in transparency for Augusta Government. As the needs of citizens and elected officials become more finely-tuned and constructive feedback is turned into action items that will improve the site, CityWatch will be enhanced and become more capable. Feedback is vitally important to the success of CityWatch, so input from the users of the site is encouraged so that functionality can be developed that will exceed the expectations of the citizens.
Suggestions will be gathered, assessed, and implemented as time permits based on the nature of the suggestion. For example, if a suggestion is made regarding sweeping changes to the site or integration with other systems that currently are not connected, it may take some time to assess the suggestion to determine if some or all of it is practical or even possible. On the other hand, a suggestion that has an "easy" fix will likely be implemented as soon as possible, especially if the end result is a more customer-friendly user interface. In any case, constructive feedback from our customers is highly valued!
CityWatch's ProjectWatch and BudgetWatch tools are far from being the only transparency features offered by Augusta. There is a wealth of information available on the city's website, which you can peruse at the links below: