How Many Clicks?

City Scores ‘B’; Page, R’ham ‘C’s In Open Government Survey

Posted: January 21, 2013

HARRISONBURG — An independent survey that graded the transparency of government websites in Virginia gave Harrisonburg’s site a grade of B, while marking both Rockingham and Page Counties with C grades.

The Virginia Coalition for Open Government surveyed the ease by which an entity’s budget could be found on its website.  

The City of Harrisonburg scored 41 out of 50 possible points, and a six out of 10 on the “How many clicks does it take?” segment of the survey. Surveyors needed three clicks to reach the current budget.

“We were pleased with the results,” Mary-Hope Vass, spokeswoman for the city said.

The city unveiled a new website in April. 

“The former website was not current and definitely needed updating,” Vass said. She added that the city sought input from citizens when designing the new site.

“I think that has definitely helped our current website,” Vass said.

The budget is also available on the City’s Facebook page, Vass said, and the budget is featured on the homepage website when it is proposed and adopted.

The Coalition promotes access to government records in an effort to ensure public information is readily available to citizens, Megan Rhyne a spokeswoman for the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, said. The survey did not examine alternative methods for transparency. “[Transparency] is something that we’re always looking into so that the community can find the information as easy as possible,” Vass said.

Rockingham County scored a 34 out of 50. The surveyor needed five clicks, a score of two out of 10, to reach the current budget.

“Given the fact that we’re just transitioning the website to one that’s much more user-friendly, it’s not surprising to me that we got an average score,” County Administrator Joe Paxton said. 

Rockingham County unveiled it’s new website Nov. 8.

The primary goal for the new website has been to get it up and running with current information, Paxton said. County employees will now work to improve site navigability, he said.

“I’ve asked each department to work on trying to make their information more user-friendly and more easily obtainable to person’s from the outside,” Paxton said. 

Page County scored 36 out of 50 with six out of 10 on the clicks segment, requiring three clicks to reach the current budget. 

“We’re OK with it. It’s a C, it’s average, it’s pretty good,” Bill Wolfe, Page County’s interim administrator, said. “It’s providing us with some good feedback on ways that we can make our information more accessible to the public.

“And it’s not just for the budget, it’s for other things,” Wolfe said.  “We’re gonna look at it and talk to the people who help us with our website and see what we can do to improve.”

All three entities failed the pass-fail segment which examined whether the website provided a comment section specifically for the budget.

Both the Rockingham County and Harrisonburg websites exhibit general comment sections, while Page County’s does not. 

The survey also awarded points for exhibiting past budget information. Rockingham and Page Counties scored five out of five for exhibiting budgets for the past four years. Harrisonburg scored a four for providing budgets for the last three years.

Contact Alex Rohr at 540-574-6293 or arohr@dnronline.com


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