Wise County has been named one of the most fiscally-transparent county governments in Texas by the State Comptroller’s office.
Wise was one of 10 counties and 36 governmental entities overall to be awarded the new Platinum Award through the Comptroller’s Leadership Circle Program, which recognizes local governments that provide online access to their expenses and revenue.
Before this year, the highest level a local government (which includes cities, school districts and other taxing entities) could achieve was the Gold Award.
Governments are scored on a points system. The entity must publish its adopted budget, annual financial report and check register on its website to meet the “major criteria” as well as a number of items listed as “minor criteria” in order to reach the Gold level.
After meeting that criteria, an entity can reach the Platinum level by posting detailed summary information about current bonded debt and how it will be paid off, providing a link to the Comptroller’s website about transparency in government (www.texastransparency.org) and posting a pledge signed by the chief executive about proposed bond packages and existing debt – and providing the Comptroller’s office with a link to that information no later than one business day after the public notice of the bond election.
Wise County’s website, www.co.wise.tx.us, includes all of this information, plus some information not required by the Comptroller’s office, such as financial information on Weatherford College and elected and appointed officials’ salaries.
Wise County Auditor Ann McCuiston said it’s important for citizens to be able to easily find this type of financial information.
“We feel it’s good for our citizens to be able to go to the website and look stuff up,” McCuiston said. ” … It’s the citizens’ money, and it’s there for them to look at.”
This is not the first time the county has applied for and received a Leadership Circle award. In 2010, the county received the Gold level award. Prior to that, the county posted some financial information on its website, but the award criteria and application process showed the county where it could improve its financial transparency.
McCuiston said financial information is given to information technology Director Randy Joy who quickly posts the information on the county website.
The award announcement was made during Sunshine Week, a week set aside to recognize the importance of open government and the public’s right to know.