FOIA, Freedom of Information Act, is the single best bill ever passed to actually benefit any concerned taxpayer.
Have you ever wondered about such things as what bills you, the taxpayer, are paying to operate our county offices, city services or the big one, just how are we spending our tax dollars to operate our local schools. If you don't think it is the big one just look at your last property tax bill.
So how can you use the FOIA act to obtain this information? All public bodies have to, by law, have a FOIA officer. All one has to do is just request from the FOIA officer in writing, or by email, what you wish to receive.
Among common questions that are often asked, are just what are we paying our employees or what benefits do we pay for. When I look at school districts I usually request information in regards to outstanding bonds, since we the taxpayers have to pay for these bonds via the tax dollar. Remember, bonds are just a way to borrow money.
What does it cost? The first 50 pages, by law, have to be provided with NO charge, after that it is 0.15 cents per page. There is no charge for electronic copies. How long does it take? The public body has five (5) working days to reply to the requestor.
As a result of FOIA, many cities, villages, counties, AND school districts have become much more open to the public and now post much of the requested information on their web site and will, upon receiving a FOIA, refer the requestor to the correct area on their web site to see if this will supply the requested information.
Unfortunately, some public entities seem to like to keep the taxpayers in the dark about their operations. If you encounter what you believe is an old fashioned run around or what you think is incomplete information, just send a copy of your request to the Attourney General's Office along with what you have received.