Gateway's most popular local government data
With an ever-growing amount of information on Gateway, researchers and citizens alike have a steady stream of data to explore about Indiana’s local governments.
Back in 2011, Indiana Gateway for Government Units (“Gateway”) was launched to enable local governments to submit tax and finance data to certain state agencies online. These data are immediately available for review by those agencies and are then accessible online for the public. Shortly after its debut, it was said that “the public access side of Gateway provides transparency to local government data in Indiana in a way that has never before been easily available.”1
Over the years, Gateway (https://gateway.ifionline.org) has continued to expand and incorporate more and more data, as well as additional agency participants. The platform was originally built and launched by the Indiana Business Research Center in conjunction with the Department of Local Government Finance. The State Board of Accounts joined the partnership soon thereafter, and Gateway has since grown to include the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board, the Indiana Gaming Commission and the State Auditor.
The Report Search allows citizens to access everything from local budgets to conflict of interest disclosures to fund balances for local school district extracurricular accounts (yes, you really can find out how much money the middle school’s chess club or the high school athletic department had in their bank accounts). Indeed, the amount of data in Gateway is immense. This article provides only a brief overview of some of the most popular data sets and also highlights a couple of new tools. We encourage you to go to the site and see these for yourself.
Employee Compensation: State laws mandating the collection of public employee compensation data have been on the books since 1943. These data, which are submitted to the State Board of Accounts each year, have been part of Gateway since 2012 and quickly became the most popular data accessed in terms of page views.
Local Tax + Finance Dashboard: This dashboard provides a top-level overview of a local government’s finances—including taxes, budgets, employment levels, compensation and debt amounts. Users can view change over time, compare a variety of government units or download time series data. One particularly handy thing about this tool is that it includes definitions and descriptions for those not well-versed in government finance lingo (appropriation vs. disbursement, anyone?).
Bond/Lease Report: Local governments are required to report debt through Gateway to the Department of Local Government Finance no later than one month after the debt is incurred and must verify the accuracy of all debt information each spring. The bond/lease report provides all of the details regarding a specific debt’s purpose, its source of repayment, the full amortization schedule and much more. It is just one component of the Debt Management section of the site, which can be used to explore debts by unit more broadly. Figure 1 allows exploration of just some of the data from the debt management tool.
Figure 1: County-level debt as of December 31, 2018
Source: Indiana Gateway for Government Units
Annual Financial Report: The Annual Financial Report (AFR) section of the site includes a wide range of data submitted by districts for use by the State Board of Accounts in their annual audits. Here you’ll find detailed spending records, pension plan information, capital asset records, grant usage and more.
TIF District Viewer: Tax increment finance (TIF) districts are commonly used by local governments to pay for infrastructure intended to spur new economic development.2 For each of the 806 TIF districts in the state (as of 2017), users can see details about the associated bonds, view a map of its component parcels, and explore assessed values, expenses and revenues.
Taxpayer Portal: This new feature on the site can be used to access all of the Gateway tools that relate to individual taxpayers from one spot. For example, you can look up the tax bill or assessed value of a property, estimate your property tax bill, calculate the potential impact of a local referendum, or search property sales disclosures.
- County Abstract Public Reports: These reports are the newest feature on the site. They are an annual summary of property assessments, tax rates, levies, TIF district assessed values and delinquent taxes. These data are provided to the State Auditor each year and comprise part of its comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR).
Users can also access the Download area of the site, where several key data sets are available to those who want to scoop in lots of data for analysis. For example, this area includes the property files (real property, personal property, adjustments and tax bill data) for all counties going back to assessment year 2011. Gateway is also partnering with Indiana’s Management Performance Hub (MPH) to make comparable local government data available through their Data Hub. Users can currently find data on the state’s budget and expenditures in its Indiana Transparency Portal area at https://hub.mph.in.gov/organization/itp.
And, for those who are curious about who actually submits reports and if it’s done in a timely manner, each report has its own submission log that users can view. Table 1 summarizes the submissions log for the Annual Financial Report, which was due 60 days from the start of the new year (with the exception of schools).
Table 1: AFR 2018 submission log summary
|Unit type||Number of units||Received on time||Received late||Total received||Not received||Percent received|
*Schools and charter schools are due 60 days after June 30. All other units are due 60 days after December 31.
Source: Indiana Gateway for Government Units (data extracted on March 12, 2019)
With an ever-growing amount of information on the site, researchers and citizens alike can have a steady stream of data to explore about Indiana’s local units of government—whether one is interested in counties, library districts, towns, school corporations or perhaps even water conservation districts. Visit https://gateway.ifionline.org/ to get started.
- Eric Bussis, “Gateway: An Open Door to Indiana Local Government,” InContext, March-April 2012, http://www.incontext.indiana.edu/2012/mar-apr/article2.asp.
- For those unfamiliar with TIFs, here is a good basic primer on the topic: Larry DeBoer, “The Use of Tax Increment Finance by Indiana Local Governments,” Purdue University Department of Agricultural Economics, December 2016, https://pcrd.purdue.edu/ruralindianastats/downloads/The-Use-of-Tax-Increment-Finance.pdf.