True Cost of Public Notice
Last year, Irving ISD spent a total of $8,329 from of a $342 million dollar budget on public notice ––that is only 0.0024%. As a comparison, 0.0024% of the height of the Empire State Building is about one centimeter, or the height of a sugar cube. In fact, the Texas Association of Counties conducted a survey of its members to determine the amount spent on bid notices in FY 2011. On average, the total of all counties names in the survey spent 0.00533% of their total budgets on procurement advertising. The Empire State Building height comparison of this amount would be the height of a thumbtack.
It is not at all uncommon for the real numbers to show that hundredths of one percent of government budgets are being spent on this important mechanism for informing the public while upwards of 15% of their trade organization’s budgets are spent on lobbying efforts.
Misleading Information about the amount spent on public notice
Terry Henley, Mayor Pro Tem of the city of Meadows Place, testified that Meadows Place spent over $6000 on public notice last year. However, according to the Houston Chronicle, which publishes legal notices for the city of Meadows Place, Meadows Place only spent $794 on Public Notice. vii Even the 2012 Meadows Place budget only allocates $2000 to “legal publications.” Notably, over $4,000 is budgeted for dues, which likely includes the cost of membership in lobbying organizations such as the Texas Municipal League. viii
Government lobbyists are spending millions to reduce open government and transparency requirements
Government entities funnel millions of dollars into lobbying efforts every year, including this effort to reduce access to information about government spending. Two such organizations alone spend over $2 million dollars each year on lobbying efforts.
Texas Municipal League is one of the driving forces behind the push to reduce public notice requirements. The taxpayer-funded organization spent over $1.5 million on costs related to lobbying and legislative activity in the 2010-11 fiscal year. ix
Likewise, the Texas Association of School Boards (“TASB”) reported that it spent $575,970 on lobbying in the 09-10 fiscal year. x TASB earned $3,417,296 in membership fees in the 2009-2010 fiscal year. xi For each school district that is a member of the TASB, over 16% of their dues goes directly to lobbying. TASB dues are not insignificant. For example, responding to a public information request, Marble Falls ISD reported that they spent more than $20,000 on TASB dues in 2011.
1= Texas Municipal League; 2= Texas Association of School Boards