Monday, December 11, 2023

OPINION: Transparency in numbers: A look into how your tax dollars are being spent

by BRANDON D. WOOLF/Guest Opinion
| May 19, 2023 1:00 AM

The first rule for any responsible government is that it must do the work of the people, for the people. That is the reason for any government’s existence. But before that work can start, the governing body must first prioritize getting, and more importantly, keeping the trust of its citizens. I am proud to say the state of Idaho is leading the way in the creation of concrete processes to do just that, to better ensure our citizens can trust their state and local government entities.

As your Idaho State Controller, it is my job to account for all of our state’s expenditures so Idahoans can know exactly how their government is working for them. However, the inner workings of government can be complicated and cumbersome. That is why it has been a goal of mine since I was elected to office to make those obscure details easy to understand — and thanks to the hard work of your State Controller’s Office, Idaho is now bringing clarity to the complex.

With that, I am honored to announce the successful expansion of Transparent Idaho ( Transparent Idaho is a free-to-use online portal where you can find Idaho’s state and local government financial data. This in-depth information is laid out in a comparable format with uniform, comprehensive reports that are both concise and digestible. For example, you can see how your property tax contributes to your county’s budget, and then, how your county is spending that money.

Transparent Idaho also has interactive charts, where you can pick and choose what data you’d like to view based on a category. Maybe you’re curious how Payette County’s spending compares to Bannock County. Or, how Kootenai County allocates its funds compared to Canyon County. Transparent Idaho can give you an apples-to-apples comparison of each. You can even see how much your county or city is spending by category, from public safety and sanitation to education and economic development.

Since I first took office in 2012, my goal has been to conduct Idaho’s business in an open and transparent manner. Every Idahoan deserves to have a full understanding of where, when, and how their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent, as well as be able to see exactly what is being accomplished with that spending. Knowing that, I wanted to create a one-stop shop for our citizens to get all the answers they need with the simple click of a button — and Transparent Idaho was born. I truly hope this website can become a trusted source for Idaho’s financial data and a resource for all Idahoans to hold their elected officials accountable.

We’re not done yet! My team is continuing to work with local entities to dive deeper into Idaho’s financials. We are focusing now on the Gem State’s nearly 200 cities, and following our ongoing uniformity efforts, we will provide greater insight into revenue, expenditure and fund balance data.

A transparent Idaho only makes Idaho better. I hope Transparent Idaho opens the door to further collaboration between our elected leaders and our citizens.

• • •

Brandon D. Woolf is the Idaho State Controller.

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