It seems there’s still a lot of work to be done to bring about greater transparency in our local governments. According to a new report by the Sunshine Review, county governments in Texas earned a failing grade for online accountability.
According to Curt Olson of Texas Budget Source, The Sunshine Review gave all 254 counties in Texas a collective “F” for their dismal efforts to provide basic information to taxpayers online.
That’s simply unacceptable.
But it’s not surprising, considering the Legislature’s inaction on the matter this 82nd Session. Despite the Republican “super-majority” this session, the Legislature didn’t take up a single bill to require our county governments to post their check registers online. Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington) attempted to require school districts to post their financial information online, but his bill was never heard in committee during the regular session. He tried again during the special session on SB 1, but his amendment was later removed during the conference committee.
But it’s not just counties and school districts that need more transparency. Olson in his reports state that “special districts own the title of the most secretive public entities in Texas.” Special districts include transportation and river authorities, community colleges, among others.
Just how bad are they? According to Olson, only about 2% of the 1,700 special districts in Texas are even posted on the Comptroller’s “Leadership Circle Page”, a website created to promote more transparency among local governments.
Until the Legislature steps up and requires these entities to post their check registers and other financial information online, and strengthen the Texas Pubic Information Act, this will continue to be the norm.