Sunshine Week: How to find city, county and state fiscal year budgets

Monday , March 13, 2017 - 5:30 AM

MITCH SHAW, Standard-Examiner Staff

March 12-18 is Sunshine Week, recognized by journalists and nonprofits as a time to focus on and highlight the importance of government transparency. This year, we’re providing how-to guides to explain which records Utahns ought to have access to, according to state laws. These records have a number of critical public-facing purposes, including protecting consumers and preserving civil liberties. Have questions or want us to investigate a government transparency issue? Email cityed@standard.net or mail your proposal and supporting documents to 332 Standard Way, Ogden, UT 84044.

RELATED: Sunshine Week: How to find Utah day care center inspection reports

What is the record?

Government fiscal year budgets

What are some ways it’s useful?

Fiscal year budgets exist for a simple yet imperative reason: to shed light on how and where government agencies spend your tax dollars and fees.

Residents, property and business owners and even visitors contribute to a city’s or counties tax base. Those dollars pay for a host of items, such as police and fire protection, road and infrastructure maintenance, capital improvements, employee salaries, recreation, public art and more.

Budgets are one of government’s most effective policy making tools.

Where can you get it?

City, county and state budgets are generally available on the website of the agency that drafted it. For example, Ogden city makes their last 12 fiscal year budgets available on their website, ogdencity.com. From the city’s home page, click the “government” tab, then select “budgets and finance.”

Most government organizations also provide budgets at their headquarters building and at some can be found at local libraries.

What information is in the report?

Budgets show a citizen where tax dollars come from, where they are spent and where they will go in the future. They show what an agencies funding sources, what their expenditures are and what debt services they must make. 

What information is not in the report?

Budgets don’t include salary information for employees of a particular agency. Most budgets don’t include detailed expense reports with things like checks issued, invoice numbers, payment amounts and recipients.

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