The Kent County Taxpayers Alliance, a local non-partisan taxpayers’ rights organization, unveiled its ﬁrst annual survey of local government transparency today. The survey rated 16 major governmental units in the county and graded them based on a number of factors. Topping the scorecard was the city of Grand Rapids which earned an A with a score of 87%. At the bottom was the Interurban Transit Partnership, or Rapid, which earned a D- and a score of only 23%.
“The whole purpose of the survey is to gauge our local governments in their level of transparency, provide a means of determining progress from one year to the next, and hopefully encourage some productive competition to improve easy access to information,” said KCTA spokesman Eric Larson.
The survey scored the governments on 15 categories that they deemed important for taxpayers to have access. These included items like annual audits, full budgets, union contracts, salary information, and a page dedicated to transparency. Each category fulﬁlled counted as one point with a half point awarded if the category was only partially completed.
The city of Grand Rapids scored 13 out of 15 for the top score and was lacking in only having a dedicated transparency web page and the salaries of top officials. The Rapid scored a paltry 3.5 out of 15 lacking most basic information critical for citizens to gauge the performance of government.
Said Larson, “With the ease of posting such information online, there is little excuse for any government to not provide this for its citizens. We feel it is critical for governments to make this basic operational information available so that we can gauge how well they operate. Without the information, citizens are left without any means of determining whether their government is using tax money responsibly. It makes it very difficult to determine who is worthy of tax increases or cuts.”
To view the full results of the transparency survey, please visit our Kent County Open Government Project web page.