Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

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News Release from Comptroller Susan Combs

For Immediate Release
December 2, 2009

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs Recognizes Local Governments for Financial Transparency

(AUSTIN) — Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs today introduced her agency’s Leadership Circle program to recognize local governments across Texas striving to meet a high standard for financial transparency online. The Comptroller’s office is spotlighting local governments that have opened their books to the public in order to provide clear pictures of spending and share information in a user-friendly format that lets taxpayers easily drill down for more information.

The Comptroller’s office encourages cities, towns, counties, school districts and every government entity across Texas to become more open with their financial records. The agency has developed a free, self-scoring process verified by the Local Government Assistance Division to add entities into the Leadership Circle in recognition of their transparency efforts.

The “Gold” designation in the Leadership Circle highlights local governments that set the bar for financial transparency, open their books to the public and set a strong example for other governmental entities to follow. The “Silver” designation encourages entities making continued progress toward achieving financial transparency, while “Bronze” inspires those just beginning their efforts and taking the first steps toward achieving financial transparency.

The city of Tyler, Smith County and the Tyler Independent School District (ISD) today received the gold designation. Arp ISD, Chapel Hill ISD and Lindale ISD, all within Smith County, received the bronze designation. Combs says financial transparency should be an ongoing goal for any government entity.

“The governments and school districts in Tyler and Smith County are doing a great job in giving citizens the transparency in government they expect by showing that opening the window on local government is not only essential, it’s rather easy to do,” Combs said. “I applaud their leadership in transparency and the example they have set for others in Texas. Taxpayers want to know they’re getting the bang for their tax bucks. Transparency engages and empowers citizens, holds government accountable and saves taxpayer dollars.”

The Comptroller’s office is collaborating with master candidates from the University of Texas’ LBJ School of Public Affairs, the Texas Municipal League and Texas Association of Counties to develop a template that will allow local governments to more easily add financial documents to a Web site. The project will begin in January.

The Comptroller’s office also provides various transparency resources online, including success stories and tips for getting started.

The members of the Comptroller’s Leaderships Circle will be spotlighted on the Texas Transparency Check-Up Web site, www.window.state.tx.us/comptrol/checkup/, as well as receive a “Texas Comptroller Leadership Circle” seal reflecting their award level. Leadership Circle designations last for one year from the date of approval, and entities must submit score sheets annually to requalify.

The online self-scoring document accounts for financial reports, budgets and check registers available online. The score sheet also checks for financial transparency features including budgets posted online for the current fiscal year; details within the check register; ease of access to the documents; creative use of charts or visual images to make data more understandable; instructions on how to submit a public information request; and the availability of contact information for current locally elected officials.

“The Leadership Circle program will raise awareness among local constituencies that their government is committed to transparency and is either a leader or on-track to achieve that status,” Combs said. “It also serves as a way for governments and entities to ensure they remain transparent.”

For more information, visit www.window.state.tx.us/comptrol/checkup/.


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