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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Open Book?
Open Book is an online spending transparency database that allows residents to view all City spending records. Expenditure information can be browsed by:
  • Vendor (search by alphabetical list or expense amounts)
  • Expense type (choose from nearly 200 categories such as computer software, motor vehicles or wireless service)
  • Department or service area
  • Fund (choose from 35 fund types, such as the City's General Fund, Natural Areas fund, Transportation Fund, or Library District fund)
Why create this tool?
The City of Fort Collins is committed to being an open, data-driven organization. We believe that local government should be accountable for every dollar spent. The City of Fort Collins is among the first in the nation to offer this level of expense detail, and providing it in an online tool that doesn't require knowledge of our accounting structure (i.e, expense categories, vendor names, etc.)
What type of information is available?
Open Book includes data for the City of Fort Collins, the Poudre River Library District, Poudre Fire Authority and the Downtown Development Authority. Open Book includes all expenditures, except for information restricted by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or other confidential information. It includes expenses paid directly to vendors as well as those made with a City credit card.
How current is the information?
The current data runs from September 1, 2012 through the present. The database is automatically updated 15 days after the end of each month with the previous month's data. For example, July data is posted on August 15. Open Book will accumulate data for two years; thereafter the database will contain a rolling 2 year history of data.
Where do I find salary information?
City employee earnings are listed by position title and department. Information is based on the previous year's pay and will include salaries, overtime, bonuses and other one-time earnings (excludes benefits). Employee earnings cannot be displayed with other expenses in Open Book since the information resides in a different database; rather, they are listed as a separate option to browse by. Salaries for the previous year will be posted in February of the current year. View employee earnings »
Why do all credit card transactions for the month show up as the same date?
Although credit card transactions occur throughout a given month, in Open Book they will appear as if they all occurred on the same day of the month. The reason for this is that the credit card company sends the City a single file with all the previous month's transactions and that file is processed in our financial system as a whole on a single day. Since Open Book gets data directly from our financial system it appears as though all credit card transactions only happen once a month.
Why doesn't it show data older than January 1st, 2009?
In 2008 the City redesigned it's "chart of accounts", which is an accounting structure that enables financial data to be categorized for financial reporting. The old chart of accounts was problematic in that many transactions were lumped into large groupings that were not clearly defined as to what type of expenses they contained. Part of the effort to redesign the chart of accounts was to clearly define standardized expense types that better reflect the City's expenses. Thus, comparing 2009 expenses to 2008 expenses by expense type may not necessarily provide an "apples to apples" comparison.
Why do some expenses list comments and others do not?
Because information is automatically pulled from our financial system, it provides detail on the individual expense but it might not provide context for the purchase. For example, you might find a $200 expense for a restaurant; you see the date and department, but you don't see that the $200 was used to cater dinner for a public event. The more detailed documentation about the reason for expenses is stored in a different system. The City is currently re-training staff to enter brief descriptions for orders entered into our financial system. We will not be entering comments for the existing purchase order information, but comments will be added as information is posted for August 2009 and beyond. There will be blank comments for many self-explanatory City credit card expenses (e.g. a $12 credit card purchase from an office supply store).
Can I sort the data?
In the majority of cases, at least one column in a table is sortable. Sortable columns are denoted by small arrows located to the left of the column name. To sort in ascending order, click on the top arrow. Click on the bottom arrow to sort in descending order (see graphic below.) sortable column example