County launches online dashboard

May 13, 2011
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Kent County will become one of the state’s first counties to unveil a new virtual dashboard and comply with a request made earlier this year by Gov. Rick Snyder. The county’s dashboard goes up today, May 16, and will contain a variety of fiscal metrics that Kent wants to share with the public.

Ottawa County has one up, but it’s in a PDF format. Oakland County also has one. Kent’s dashboard, though, uses the same design as the state, which the governor recommended. Within days after the state’s dashboard went public and Snyder touted its transparency and accountability factors, County Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio said Kent would have one online this summer. He beat his deadline by roughly seven weeks.

“I really was impressed with the dashboard that’s on the state’s site because it’s easy to understand and it provides a great deal of information in a very limited amount of space,” he said. “And it’s something that I thought we could do and should do. I set a personal deadline of July 1, and we were able to get at least a component of it — the financial component — up in mid-May, which is great.”

When residents visit the county’s dashboard this week, they’ll find information on Kent’s bond rating, the cost of county government per resident, the county’s debt burden per resident, the status of the county’s fund balance or reserve account, the number of county employees per 1,000 residents and other financial matters. More information will be coming in the following weeks.

“Now what I want to do is start adding to that with other departmental information that’s relevant,” he said.

Delabbio admitted he wanted Kent County to be at the front of the dashboard-creation line.

“I don’t know if we’re the first to get it up, but we are the first in this format to get it up. I really liked the governor’s, and we patterned ours after the state’s. The thing is we’ve added some things the state doesn’t have, like cost per resident,” he said.

Even as the county adds data to its dashboard, Delabbio said the information would be presented in an easily understood manner and not be clogged with stuff that is irrelevant to most residents. He said the county wouldn’t compare its performance with other units of government, as it doesn’t have that data and getting it would be too expensive. So whatever measurements it presents will be assessed against itself to gauge its annual progress.

“We do have that data so we can track our performance against ourselves from year to year.”

Delabbio said developing the dashboard was an inexpensive project that cost more time than money. The county has a website development contract with Web-Tecs Inc., which maintains Kent’s site and is headed by JoAnn Arcand. Work on the dashboard began in February.

“It took some time for me, and it took some time for JoAnn. But there were no direct costs; it was all indirect. It didn’t cost thousands or tens of thousands.”

Residents can check out the dashboard by going to accesskent.com/KCDashboard.

“I believe the citizens will be pleased, not only with the format of the information, but also with what it shows — that Kent County is a good steward of the taxpayers’ money,” Delabbio said.

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