by Brian Costin
The Illinois Policy Institute recently launched the Local Government Transparency Project, which compares the transparency levels of local government to the best practices of our 10-Point Transparency Checklist.
The first transparency audit conducted by the Institute was of 18-government units either partially or fully in Schaumburg Township of Northwestern Cook County; and includes the towns of Elk Grove Village, Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates, Rolling Meadows, Roselle, Schaumburg, and Streamwood.
The average score for each government unit in the initial audit was a score of 22 out of 100. This number is painfully low but since being notified of the results of transparency audit a number of government agencies have begun to rapidly embrace transparency and make their websites more friendly to the public’s needs for online information.
In particular School District 54, a K-8 educator serving all of Schaumburg Township, has gone above and beyond in its response to the transparency proposals put forth by the Illinois Policy Institute since first being contacted on February 4th.
In less than 24 hours, School District 54 greatly expanded its transparency levels by posting its check registry, comprehensive annual financial report, budgets, and statements of affairs for the last 5 fiscal years on its financial information page. It also added phone numbers so citizens can contact their elected officials through a board coordinator. It has also added all of the board packets for the current school year, and is proactively working on additional transparency measures to add to its website over the next few weeks and months.
Talking about the Institute’s Local Transparency Project, District 54's Community Relations Director Terri McHugh said the following.
“District 54 prides itself on its transparency. When we received the first audit of information available on our website from the Illinois Policy Institute, we were surprised to see our score was so low. What we learned, upon further review, was that while we had the most current information available on our website, the Illinois Policy Institute audit recommended five years worth of financial and board-related documents be posted on our website. The information requested by the Illinois Policy Institute is all public information that has always been available to the public. District 54 is happy to work with the Illinois Policy Institute to post our budget, board meeting minutes and other records from previous years on our website.”
The citizens and taxpayers of School District 54 should take much comfort in the fact that virtually overnight School District 54 greatly improved their transparency score by close to 40 points since being contacted by the Illinois Policy Institute and now proactively provides its community’s taxpayers with a wealth of information on their activities & spending.
The Illinois Policy Institute will be working with all 18 government units audited in Schaumburg Township through March 4th to help improve transparency scores. A second audit will be conducted to measure transparency improvements and the results of that audit will be released shortly thereafter.
Volunteers needed: The Illinois Policy Institute wants to do transparency audits for all of Illinois over 6,000 units of government, but can only do so with the help of volunteers and donors. If you wish to donate your time or resources to the Local Government Transparency Project please contact Brian Costin, Director of Outreach, at email@example.com for more information.