The New Iowa Transparency Website
by Jennifer L. Crull
If you will remember, two years ago the Iowa Legislature passed House File 45, which set forth the development of a state-run Website that was to provide transparency for all fiscal matters concerning the state. The Website was to be up and running by January 1, 2013. This Website was indeed up and running in late fall, and the Department of Management has continued to work out bugs on the Website and make it more user friendly. This is a huge step forward for the state of Iowa to finally have a way to track the fiscal aspect of the state.
The transparency Website is http://data.iowa.gov. I would encourage everyone to take some time and check out this great site. The Financial tab of the Website provides information on the General Fund Appropriations, State Revenue, State Expenditures, Salary Book, Vendor Payments, Out-of-State Travel, and Local Government Budgets. Finally, all this information is located on one Website.
The General Fund Appropriations section has information from FY10 to FY13. Each year gives you a chart that shows the percentage of the Total Appropriation for each department. You can then access the General Fund Appropriations by Function and Special Department. So if you wanted to know exactly what the budget was for the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board under the Administration and Regulation, you can access that and see that they have a budget of $490,000 for FY13. You also have the ability to download the data that you access from the Website, and it shares how many people have viewed the data for the month.
State Revenue is the next financial information listed. Currently only FY12 and FY13 data is available on the Website. You then have the ability to access revenue information by State Revenue; Fees, Licenses, and Permits by Function; Federal Support; General Fund Revenue by Revenue Class; and Federal Support Received by Department. You have the ability to view the data visually and in spreadsheet form. As we look at the FY13 Federal Support by Function, we can quickly see that the Administration and Regulation received the most Federal Support at $3,515,933,670 for the fiscal year.
Once you check out the State Revenue, you have to wonder about the State Expenditures. State Expenditures are accessible from FY09 to FY13. This section allows you to see all expenditures by department. You also have the ability to view the data in chart or spreadsheet form.
The Salary Book on the Website has a very nice format. It contains data from FY07 to FY12. This section then allows you to look specifically at the salary information for the different departments, such as the Treasurer of State. This then allows you to see the employees of the Treasurer of State’s Office, their titles, contract salaries, what they actually made, and their travel reimbursements. You also have the ability to download the data, which is a big improvement from the other Salary Book listing.
Vendor Payments is the next section of financial information available. You can access this information for FY12 and FY13. The information for FY12 is broken down by Medicaid, Iowa Department of Transportation, Regents, and General payments. The FY13 data is for Medicaid and General Payments. This is really the part that House File 45 was geared at. This allows us to finally see where the taxpayers’ money is going. Plus, you can monitor Medicaid payments to your local hospital.
Out-of-State Travel is the next piece of financial information listed. This data is available for FY12 and FY13. This section allows you to look at the travel expenses for a department overall and also allows you to see the individual reimbursements for the departments. This individual reimbursement spreadsheet also includes where the individual went and the breakdown of the funding for the trip, such as federal, state, or other dollars.
The last financial information listed is the Local Government Budgets. This does direct you to another Website with the Department of Management. You then have a link for City, School Districts, Community Colleges, and Other Local Budgets. For the Cities, you can view the certified budget for various years. The School District link allows you to view various levy rates, district cost, aid information, and adopted budget summaries. The Community College section allows you access spreadsheets with the tax rates that each school is collecting, and finally the Other Local Budgets link allows you to see the counties’ budgets and other budgets under the counties. For example, in Adair County you can view the proposed budgets for the county hospital.
There is also a tab that has Tax information for the state. Under this tab, you can access information about Property Taxes, Local Option Sales Taxes, Local Hotel and Motel Taxes, and Tax Credit Information. The Property Tax section brings up the map of Iowa and shows the consolidated tax rate for each township with a color-coded guide. The same type of map is shared for the Local Option Sales Tax and Local Hotel and Motel Taxes. The Tax Credit Information has data for the Tax Credits Claimed, Tax Credits Awarded, and the Tax Credit Descriptions.
The last section of information included in the Website is the Other Data Sources. This section links you to other Websites within the state of Iowa that have data available. Natural Resources Geographic Information Systems, Iowa Department of Transportation Geographic Information Systems, Department Performance, Executive Branch Employee Data, Information Technology Return on Investment, Iowa Correction Research, and Iowa Energy Data are just a few of the Other Data Sources list. I would encourage you to take your time to check out all of these additional data sources.
This really is a great improvement of financial information being supplied by the state. There are a few things that can be added to continue to improve on the information being shared, such as being able to search a specific department for a specific employee’s salary data. But this is a great start for the state of Iowa, and hopefully this will help increase the state ranking with the issue of transparency.
I would really encourage you to go check out the Website and explore all the data that is available. On an interesting note, you should check out all the information you can access about the residents of the Iowa Veterans Home. Currently 22.7 percent of all the veterans at the Veterans Home served in World War II and 38.25 percent are from the Vietnam War. This is one of many additional pieces of information you can learn while exploring the Iowa transparency Website.
Jennifer L. Crull is an IT Specialist with Public Interest Institute.
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