Transparent "Full-Monty" Budget Project



Do you want to see...

  • How much the Streets Department spends on food?
  • How many Public Property workers it takes to screw in city lightbulbs?
  • How many members of Alan Butkovitz's family are on the city payroll?

...Now you can see it all!

While the city budget is formally debated and approved by our elected representatives, the details of the City budget are kept from our view.  But its our money and we need to be able to see where every dollar goes if we are to be able to make decisions about Philadelphia's future.  Today, we are not active participants in the process to decide how to raise and spend our money.  A City Controller committed to govermental accountability and openness can show us where our money goes so we can better influence the city budget -- and make our government work for us.

With the services we count on threatened with budget cuts and taxes on the increase, we should be watching our city budget as carefully as we are watching our own household spending.  We can't be wasting money or getting ripped off and we can't have access to only a little information about the budget.  We need to be able to see it all.

It's not about seeing something, it's about seeing everything.  We can't urge our leaders to make different choices if we don't know our options and don't know where and how we are currently spending our money.  But, by changing a few spending priorities, we can help find the resources to fund the cost of our many city parades, keep all our pools open each summer, or avoid rolling brownouts in the Fire Department.

Such a "Full-Monty" budget could show us where every penny is going so that in this time of ongoing fiscal crisis (and in all other times) we could see whether we approve of our leaders' spending choices.  (Of course, this information already exists, so this kind of governmental transparency need not cost us a dime -- but, right now, only certain insiders can see it all.)



Through a series of Right-to-Know requests, I have been able to break down the spending of a few example city departments to give us a better idea of how these agencies spent our money last year.  I have presented the data with some explanatory information and organized it in a straightforward manner for our collective review.  

Screen-shot of the Full-Monty City Council Budget


I would expect that, like me, you would question some of the spending choices:

  • Why does the Mayor's Office spend so much on so many lobbying firms, bear responsibility for a $190,000 payment for a claim in a breach-of-contract suit, and what was the payout for $475,000 in Civil Rights Attorney's Fees? 
  • Why does City Council employ more than 200 employees to serve only 17 legislators, spend so much for newspaper advertising in the Internet age, and allow its members to hold outside employment when they are paid so well?
  • Why does the Managing Director's Office spend nearly $6 million on Professional Services contracts, utilize so many high-salaried "Deputy Mayors" to run a government that was conceived to operate without them, and pay out $134,000 for expenses listed as "Other Expenses Not Otherwise Classified?"
  • Why does the City Controller's Office spend so much money staffing a "Community Affairs" department, employ so many relatives of other politicos, and pay thousands to a consultant whose home was recently raided by the FBI?

What questions do you have?  How will you ask them?  You can take a look at those "Full-Monty" agency budgets again with an ability to enter comments directly on the documents so we can share our thoughts with each other in wiki-fashion.



Screen-shot of the Full-Monty Mayor's Office Budget (For Public Comment)


Please feel free to email me to let me know your thoughts and ideas -- and let me know which agency should get the Full-Monty treatment next!