Taxpayer Transparency Tips:
How You Can Track Your Tax Dollars
Want to know how your tax dollars are being spent? State and local governmental entities work hard to ensure tax dollars are spent wisely. Transparency provides a way for citizens to see this effort in action and to provide an extra set of eyes to ensure the highest levels of accountability.
Look first for information online. You can start with our Local Government Transparency pages:
Contact your local officials if you can't find the information you need online, the level of detail you want, or if you can't drill down beyond summaries to look at transaction-level detail. Ask them to create a Web presence for financial information that:
- Provides detailed information on how tax dollars are allocated and spent
- Provides detail on individual transactions
- Includes a virtual check register
- Is easy to use
- Is frequently updated
Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper with the same requests. Ask local officials to incorporate language in support of financial transparency into policies and development plans.
Get involved. Attend open meetings and public hearings. Ask questions before tax dollars are spent. Ask for answers. Applaud and support the efforts of local governmental entities that rise to the highest levels of financial transparency.
The Texas Public Information Act gives you the right to access existing government records. All government information is presumed to be available with certain exceptions for confidential or protected information. Governmental bodies must promptly release requested information. This means you can ask for budget information and financial reports. You may be charged for costs (with limits) for labor, copying or postage; check online first for no-cost access.
Texas Local Government Code Sections 111.007 and 102.006 require counties and municipalities to hold public hearings on their budgets and provide ample public notice of these hearings. Education Code Section 44.004 requires school districts to publish a meeting notice to discuss the budget and proposed tax rate for school districts. In addition, Section 44.0041 requires school districts to concurrently post a summary of their proposed budgets.