Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Where Tax Dollars Go

Texas provides an online tool that explains that, a wonderful example of innovative public administration, as reported by the Houston Chronicle.

An excerpt.

“What are you paying for garbage pickup? How about for having a fire department on call to douse your house if it goes up in flames?

“A new tool introduced on the city's website on Wednesday tells you. The "My Tax Dollars at Work" feature attempts to show how the hundreds of millions it takes to run city services for 2.1 million people translates to dollars and cents out of your pocket.

“Plug in the appraised value of your home, specify whether you claim a residential homestead exemption and you get a customized report. The site generates a department-by-department estimate of where your property tax money gets spent.

“Councilwoman Melissa Noriega attached an amendment to this year's $1.8 billion general fund budget mandating the tool.

"People should know where their taxes go," Noriega said. "Taxes aren't really just money, they're an investment in your city. This website is going to allow you to see where that investment goes and what it does."

“The councilwoman said she believes taxpayers will be surprised by what they find. She used her own property taxes as an example. "Thirty-nine dollars a year goes to garbage pickup. I need to tell you, to have somebody come twice a week, including recycling collection, to pick up your trash for $39 a year is a bargain," she said.

“Open-government advocates heaped praise on the initiative.”