Hows Does Your Town Add Up?

REGION – Just like your car's dashboard gives you quick, easy-to-understand info – your current speed, miles traveled, and how much gas is left in your tank – local units of government are creating financial dashboards for the very same purpose.

It's purpose? To give residents easy-to-read and easy-to-understand financial information about their county, village or township. Nice idea, eh?

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder thinks so, too, and that's why he's asking all governments to participate – and even mandating it for some.

Want to know how Grand Traverse County's 2010 fund balance compares to five years ago? Or Benzie County? What about how money is spent in Suttons Bay Township? Curious about the public safety cost per resident in Kalkaska County?

In response to the governor's mandate, the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments (NWMCOG) is helping all units of government in the region provide that information by offering training on Munetrix Municipal Metrics, a software tool designed specifically for governments to input and display financial information. This new regulation affects all units of government within each county.

Called the Citizen's Guide to Local Unit Finances and Performance Dashboard, the financial resource is designed to help governments be as transparent as possible when it comes to money coming in – and going out.

As Snyder says, "…it should be easily understood by the average citizen that does not possess a high level of financial expertise." While governments have flexibility as to the content of the Citizens' Guide, it must include a listing of its unfunded liabilities.

Matt McCauley of NWMCOG says he expects local governments to start incorporating the financial dashboard more and more, although progress on that front is not particularly quick right now. However, residents can view some data that is currently available for regional municipalities at BN