Transparency and taxes
Restoring trust, building community ” Point 4: Transparency in county spending:
Through a bipartisan effort, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act was signed into law in 2006. The Web site, http://www.usaspending.gov, went live on Dec. 13, 2007. This is free, publicly searchable Web site for federal contracts, grants and payments with exceptions for classified information, federal assistance payments made to individuals and personal information that affects federal employees such as wage garnishments. Inspired by the federal effort, Kansas became the first state to make expenditures available on their Web site. Several other states have followed suit. A Taxpayer Transparency Act was introduced in Colorado in 2007, but it was killed in a house committee.
Currently Eagle County publishes payments once a month in a local newspaper. An example of what is published can be seen at http://www.electdebbiebuckley.com/PAT/april08.htm. Next to the name of the person or vendor receiving the check, the explanation is limited to services, supplies or reimbursement. I believe the county should increase the effort to be transparent by making expenditures available and understandable through the county Web site. The data should be searchable within categories and be accompanied by a very brief explanation.
True transparency must include ready access to reliable, comprehensive, timely and easily understandable, information on spending. Active participation of Eagle County citizens will depend on the ease of use of this system.
The link to this searchable database should be prominently displayed on the home page of the county’s Web site. The money the county spends is taxpayer money, and through this system the taxpayer will be empowered to see how their tax money is spent. It will also give local business an opportunity to approach the county and bid on services. For example, an architect will be able to search to see how much tax money the county has been spent with architectural firms that were not in Eagle County in the past year. With this information, the architect from our community can ask to be informed of future projects in order to bid on them.
Eagle County should lead the way in increasing government transparency for all spending and encourage other county taxing districts to follow suit. This is an important step in restoring trust with the taxpayers of Eagle County.
If you missed previous points of my 10-point plan for restoring trust and building community, you can find it on my Web site at http://www.electdebbiebuckley.com.