County Spending Information Online For First TimeBy Jeffrey Hess | Published 13 Sep 2011 05:52pm |
For the first time, Mississippians can see how their tax dollars are being spent on a county level. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports a non-profit used public records request to collect and sort the expenses of 62 of 82 Mississippi Counties.
The Mississippi Center for Public Policy has now posted 6 years worth of records to its website, see-the-spending-dot-org.
Center president Forest Thigpen says visitors can do detailed searches of county spending, for everything from office supplies to travel expenses.
"Before now, citizens would have had to request volumes of records and go through them manual to get what they can get now get with the click of a mouse," Thigpen said.
Thigpen says this information empowers residents to get involved with politics at the local level and monitor local elected officials.
Madison County Chancery Clerk Arthur Johnston was an early advocate of the program and helped convince other counties to join.
Johnston says it took about 6 months to collect and submit all the data the center wanted.
"Our concern was that we have some private information, social security numbers and other data that gets put in this systems. And our concern was that the Center for Public Policy was going to protect that information. So that was a little concern for us and for other counties," Johnston said.
20 counties are not involved in the data base, including one of the most populous counties Hinds.
Hinds County Chancery Clerk Eddie Jean Carr says there are technical problems keeping them from providing the information in the form the Center wanted.
"The clerk's office did not have the information they needed in the format they needed. If it had been something we had, we would have (got it) the same day. Because our goal is to fill open records requests the same day. But this is something we didn't have access too," Carr said.
Other counties also say that technical problems made it too difficult to file the information...Carr says they are still working on the problem to determine if it is possible to provide the information for the website.
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