The initiative was introduced at the March 20 City Council meeting by the city’s Commissioner of Finance, Michele Madigan.
“I feel like we have a lot of good content there, but I think it’s difficult for people to find that content. When they come to the city website, what are they looking for? It’s that kind of content I want to drive to the forefront of the website,” said Madigan.
Some early ideas involving the city’s website include being able to pay your city taxes, water and utility bills electronically and directly to the city, which decreases the need for paper billing. If you’ve ever had any ideas about how to improve upon the Saratoga Springs website, now is your best chance to see your ideas at work.
“We really want citizen participation in this survey. This is our city’s website, and I want to make sure we have the content out there that citizens want to see,” said Madigan.
The survey is pretty basic and offers a few more common answers to choose from, as well a space to provide specific feedback in case your answer wasn’t listed. Commissioner Madigan has taken some time to visit other municipal websites, and saw there was room for improvement as far as Saratoga Springs’ was concerned. One of her main focuses seems to be centralizing public information, to help make the visitor’s search a bit easier.
“When people are looking for budget information, they’re looking for it in the Finance Department, but actually the capital improvement program, and the capital budget would be found in the Mayor’s Department, and that confuses people.”
Commissioner Madigan thinks that centralizing information and making it easier to access will help the Finance Department become more transparent when residents come seeking information.
During the March 20 city council meeting, Commissioner Madigan also brought up the city’s social media policy, which allows departments within the city of Saratoga Springs to open their own accounts on Facebook. The policy was drafted after the city’s Recreation Department had specifically requested they be allowed to open a Facebook account. This now means other departments, like the Saratoga Springs Police Department, are also allowed to open accounts should they so choose.
“One of the things I like about having a Facebook presence is that you’re pushing information out to people. You don’t have to go to several different websites or really any other website to find out about a City Council meeting or that the budget has been posted,” commented Madigan.
The request from the Recreation Department comes as more and more schools are trying to become more environmentally conscious and not send home as much extra paperwork with students for their parents to read. Because of this, the Recreation Department is having trouble communicating to parents what activities or programs may be going on. The department thinks having a Facebook profile will help bridge that communication gap with parents connected to the social networking service.
Now that city departments have been given the green light to start their online accounts, does that mean it won’t be long before City Hall joins Facebook?
“Eventually, I foresee the city will have its own Facebook presence, and this policy would cover that,” said Madigan.