Municipal Checkbook Project Returns
Four years ago, Show-Me Institute researchers sent Sunshine Law requests across Missouri, asking cities how they were spending their tax dollars. Some of the responses we received were startling, like a $35,000 bill from the city of Battlefield and $25,000 from Hollister to get their spending records. Meanwhile, much larger cities such as Springfield and much smaller cities such as Strafford gave us their records for free.
As it turns out, the ability to produce a city’s “checkbook register” isn’t dependent on city size. In fact, the willingness to share with the public how tax dollars are being spent seems far more likely to hinge on city culture than anything else.
And now with the benefit of some time having passed since our last inquiries of Missouri’s cities, we thought it was appropriate to check in and see how their cultures of transparency were holding up. The good news is spending records are already rolling in from cities across the state; the bad news is that once again, some cities are still giving us the runaround, if they respond at all.
If you don’t see your city yet on the online drive we’ve set up, there’s still the possibility it will appear there eventually; we are receiving new submissions all the time, so stand by for updates. And if you have concerns about how your municipal government is spending money in general, be sure to hit us up. My colleagues and I will be talking about both the positive and negative stories learned from this transparency project over the next few weeks, and if you have local knowledge that you think would be useful to that narrative, we’re all ears.