A Visit to DeKalb County’s New Website


DeKalb County put its new website online this week.

The county says the overhaul was not made in response to the Illinois Policy Institute’s recent grade of D-, but has been in the works for about a year.

DeKalb County has put lots online for quite some time, but finding it or even getting a real sense of what all is there could be a problem.

I probably don’t use a government website the way most people do, and am much more inclined to head straight for the A-Z index and the search function. However, I find the front page sensible, attractive and inviting of exploration.

Under the principle of “if I can’t find it, it doesn’t exist,” there are a few omissions that would prevent the website from earning an “A” using the IPI grading rubric, such as vendor contracts, lobbyist information and taxation other than property taxes (e.g, DeKalb County has a sales tax. Where is it?). Some compensation information is a bit late in being posted, too.

There are also some really nice surprises. I fed “bid awards 2012” into the search and found out the county places all board resolutions online for the current fiscal year (which I discovered a bit later are also accessible from a front page link). Additionally, the latest Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) has a separate link for each section(!), the table containing links to the five current labor contracts includes contract starting and expiration dates so you don’t have to go into the contracts themselves to find them, and if you look up “Fees” in A-Z there’s a separate link to each type.

The county has always been strong in historical information, and the staff did not change this; years of CAFRs, vendor payments, property tax extensions and bond information remain.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) info is not accessible from the front page — it’s not a “Hot Topic?” Boo! — but you will find it if you click “I Want To…,” “Forms & Publications” or the index tab. Behold the beautiful redundancies!

So here’s a tip o’ the hat to Joan Berkes Hanson and Lisa Sanderson, the county employees who so greatly improved the DeKalb County website as a public resource. Well done.