Hoosiers now have an opportunity to take a deeper look at how local governing units collect and spend their money thanks to a new website recently unveiled by the state.

And Jackson County seems to be faring better that a lot of Indiana counties, a local official says.

“We look really good,” county Councilman Brian Thompson told his fellow council members during their recent meeting at the courthouse annex.

Thompson was basing that assessment on information located on the web at https://gateway.ifionline.org/

He said several things about the report caught his eye.

One of those items is that in 2012, the state is anticipating that county government will receive $20.1 million in revenues and has estimated expenditures of $19.5 million.

Spending per person by county government is anticipated at $463.23 while revenue per person is expected to be $475.34.

“Thirty-one counties are spending less money than they are receiving,” Thompson said. “And we are one of those. The other 61 counties are spending more than they are receiving.”

Thompson said he felt that outcome was a result of good work of the council during budget hearings earlier this year as well as the work of previous councils.

The highest per capita spending by a county in 2012 is Switzerland, which anticipates spending of $1,510.58 per person and revenues of $1,620.90. The lowest expenditure by a county is Putnam County ($283.82). That county anticipates per capita revenue of $281.53.

Floyd County is anticipating the lowest per capita revenue at $220.40 in 2012.

A separate report for cities and towns shows that Seymour’s governing unit will be taking in more ($16.3 million) than it expends ($16.2 million) next year. The county’s three towns, however, expect to receive less revenue than they will spend in 2012. They are Brownstown, $1.47 million in expenses compared to $1.39 million in revenue; Crothersville, $828,721 in expenses compared to $411,369 in revenue; and Medora, $133,600 in expenditures compared to $114,886 in revenue.

Thompson said he also spent time studying a report that shows on June 30 of this year, Jackson County had a cash balance of $12.1 million, which is 62 percent of the county’s adopted budget of $19.5 million for 2012.

“I feel like that shows we are healthy,” Thompson said. He added that is the kind of comparison that individuals might look at when determining a budget for their home.

The Indiana Department of Local Government Finance unveiled the website developed in cooperation with the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in mid-November.

According to a press release from the DLGF, the website is the second phase of a new online data collection system and public access website that “substantially increases the transparency and accessibility of local government finance” for Hoosiers.

The first phase of the system, known as the Indiana Gateway for Government Units or Gateway for short, allowed local officials to submit 2012 budget forms electronically from July 1 to Nov. 3.

As part of the second phase, those budget figures are now incorporated into the interactive research website. Visitors to the site can compare against other units and analyze per capita revenues and spending.

The public site allows taxpayers to access relevant data by property address, view up-to-the-minute budget summary information and download customizable reports.

“Once Gateway is fully implemented, with a few mouse clicks, citizens can obtain local government budgets, property tax information, debt tallies, and spending reports,” Department Commissioner Brian Bailey said.

Local officials also will use Gateway to submit annual reports to the state Board of Accounts, allowing users to tie budget information to expenditure information easily for the first time.

They also will report debt information through Gateway, providing taxpayers with information about borrowing costs and overall indebtedness. This data, which local officials must submit by March 1, will be made available through the public access website this spring.

“By linking local government finance to the other data hosted on Stats Indiana, policy makers and businesses will have information at their fingertips to help them make fiscal decisions in the context of their overall community, or communities they may consider joining,” IBRC Deputy Director and Chief Information Officer Carol Rogers said.

The initiative is a joint effort of the DLGF, the Indiana Business Research Center and the state Board of Accounts through the Information for Indiana program, a collaborative project launched by Gov. Mitch Daniels in July 2005.

Additionally, last year, the state launched the Indiana Transparency Portal, www.in.gov/itp, which provides Hoosiers with access to information on how the state is utilizing its resources and includes information on state contracts, employee salaries, budget, revenue data, state debt authority and more.

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