e-Texas e-Texassmaller smarter faster governmentDecember, 2000
Carole Keeton Rylander
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Recommendations of the Texas Comptroller

Chapter 3: Government Performance

Ease Reporting Requirements on Cities and Counties


The state requires local governments to provide many types of information, and generating and reporting such data can be burdensome. A Program Management Office within the Texas Department of Information Resources (recommended elsewhere in this report) should work with a state agency work group to simplify, automate, and reduce state reporting requirements on Texas’ local governments.


Unnecessary reporting requirements are a form of unfunded mandate on local governments. Because producing and reporting data represent a financial burden to local governments, state and federal agencies should collect only that information that is essential to their missions. In addition, agencies should attempt to gauge the burden that reporting requirements place on providers. Federal law defines a reporting “burden” as the time, effort, or financial resources expended by persons to generate, maintain, or provide information to or for a federal agency, including the resources expended for:

  1. reviewing instructions;
  2. acquiring, installing, and utilizing technology and systems;
  3. adjusting the existing ways to comply with any previously applicable instructions and requirements;
  4. searching data sources;
  5. completing and reviewing the collection of information; and
  6. transmitting, or otherwise disclosing the information...[1]

The US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimates that the reporting burden imposed by the federal executive branch on businesses, local governments, and individuals in fiscal 2000 totaled more than 7.4 billion work hours, worth more than $79 billion.[2] The OMB also estimates that the federal government’s reporting demands rose by 7 percent between 1998 and 2000, despite federal mandates intended to reduce the reporting burden by 5 percent annually over the same time period.[3] OMB attributes a major portion of this increase to changes in federal statutes. According to OMB, “New statutes often mean new requirements; new requirements mean greater burden.”[4]

Local governments undoubtedly experience similar burdens due to state reporting requirements, but the lack of any comprehensive study of these mandates and their costs makes it impossible to quantify their effects.

Federal Initiatives

The OMB has significant oversight authority concerning the requirements federal agencies place on other governments and regulated entities. The OMB reviews and approves the processes involved in collecting, disseminating, and accessing information. It evaluates the collection burden on reporters; and considers issues related to privacy, confidentiality, security, disclosure, and the sharing of information. OMB also has certain oversight responsibilities relating to the substitution of electronic records for paper reports.

Under the federal Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA), federal agencies must not issue a request for information without first obtaining the OMB’s approval and a control number for the data request. This allows the OMB to minimize the reporting burden and maintain a comprehensive inventory of every information request (including forms, surveys, reports, etc.) issued by executive agencies. The OMB also may require two or more agencies to combine their information requests and designate one as the collection agency.

A newer federal law, the Government Paperwork Elimination Act of 1998 (GPEA), requires federal agencies to allow reporting individuals or entities to submit and maintain records electronically, when practicable, by October 21, 2003. The act specifically states that electronic records and their related electronic signatures are not to be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability merely because they are in electronic form, and it encourages federal use of a range of electronic signature alternatives. Efforts are underway to expand the use of electronic reporting to ease the burden on those reporting and federal agencies.

The Texas Experience

Some state agencies have made inventories of certain types of required reports. For example, the state’s Office of Court Administration has identified about 100 different reports that 15 state agencies require trial courts to file.[5] Yet no definitive count of the reports required by state government exists because no agency has ever been assigned this duty.[6]

In response to a Comptroller survey on the reports required by state agencies, one county auditor identified as many as 65 reports that various county offices must submit to state agencies. He stated:

None of the above reports are exceptionally difficult to prepare. There are simply so many of them that they are very time-consuming. The real problem is that they are all required to be submitted on pre-printed forms that must be typed or hand-written. Most agencies do not allow electronic filing of the reports over the Internet, and only the Community Justice Assistance Division (CJAD) of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice provides the reports in diskette form. For a 16-person office, we only have two typewriters in the office, although everyone has a PC with Internet capabilities. So the biggest improvement for us would be to allow electronic filing or even to provide us report form templates that could be filled in using Word or Excel.[7]

State agencies agree that some reports required by law no longer serve any essential purpose. For example, Chapter 256 of the Texas Transportation Code requires that two separate but similar reports be filed with the Comptroller’s office before the office can allocate certain funds back to the counties.[8] Both reports were originally submitted to agencies other than the Comptroller’s office. The Comptroller’s office uses neither report for any significant purpose.[9]

Texas does not have a coordinated state process for sharing information across agencies and with other stakeholders such as counties, cities, federal agencies, recipients of state and local services, the Legislature, and the public. This limits the usefulness of state data for decision-making purposes. For example, in Summer 2000, the House Committee on County Affairs could not readily access data on county governments to fulfill its Interim Charge Number 1, which was to “review the cost of statutory county duties, including federal mandates, and the ability of county tax bases and fees to support such duties.”[10]

Data Quality and Accessibility

Standardization and centralization of data collection are the keys to making useful information available to decision-makers at all levels. Standardized information, for instance, allows local governments to compare their performance to that of similar jurisdictions. Such information can ultimately lead to improved accountability to taxpayers and better customer service. An electronic data “clearinghouse,” overseen at the state level, could help ensure the standardization of such data. Such a clearinghouse would assemble all state reporting data in a single location and make it available to any potential users, including local governments.

Automating information-gathering can improve its quality and accessibility. Electronic reporting helps to reduce errors and can also reduce the amount of staff time needed to generate reports. Any effort that allows data to be entered once and then used for multiple purposes eases the burden on those reporting.


A. State law should require the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR), in coordination with a working group of state agencies that impose significant reporting requirements on local governments, to work with the Comptroller’s office and local government officials to identify ways to minimize and standardize state reporting requirements and improve access to state-requested data.

The Program Management Office (PMO) within DIR, recommended elsewhere in this report, and the proposed working group should perform a comprehensive examination of the state’s reporting requirements. The PMO should seek to automate and streamline reporting, improve data accuracy and access, improve existing infrastructure, and enhance decision-making capabilities. As one of its key charges, the PMO should seek to reduce local government reporting requirements. (If the Legislature does not establish a PMO, the recommended functions should be placed with DIR.) The Comptroller’s office should be included because of its extensive involvement and support of local governments.

The first step in streamlining reporting requirements should be establishing an inventory of required reports, including the title of each report, its description, date of its creation, the authority for its creation, type of transmission allowed (manual or automated), potential and actual users, the requesting agency, and the department or officer required to submit the report. The Comptroller’s office has already begun this process and could work with the PMO to provide the necessary data.

Within its appropriated resources, the PMO should identify the most promising opportunities for consolidating reports, standardizing data formats, and making information accessible from a central location. Standardization should help tie together the major information databases of state agencies to allow for the quick aggregation of data elements from different databases.

The federal government provides useful guidance on reducing reporting burdens, as outlined in the Information Collection Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2000.[11] This report provides information on streamlining regulations, eliminating unnecessary requirements, revising application and reporting procedures, raising reporting thresholds, reducing reporting frequencies, and consolidating multiple information collections. Texas project participants should review the case histories identified in the report, interview the federal agencies involved, and develop reasonable applications of those tools for Texas agencies.

The PMO and the working group should compile a list of recommendations for the 2003 Legislature for further streamlining and reducing reporting requirements on cities and counties.

The legislation directing the PMO to work with the working group to streamline reporting requirements should include a clear legislative intent that state agencies review existing reporting requirements. Wherever possible, it should place a moratorium on additional requirements, unless they are specifically required by law or essential to agency missions, and cooperate with the PMO and working group in reducing reporting burdens.

The PMO and the working group should include in their recommendations for future action any steps necessary for the ongoing review of mandated reports to ensure their continued usefulness.

Finally, the PMO and the working group should determine the costs and benefits of consolidating the telecommunications systems state agencies use to network with county governments and make recommendations on this topic to the Legislature. The PMO and working group should examine the number of state-funded telecommunications networks that connect with county courthouses, including those of the Department of Public Safety, the Office of the Attorney General, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Texas Department of Health, the Office of Court Administration, the General Services Commission, and any others available for consolidation.

B. DIR should work with the Comptroller’s office to create a statewide data clearinghouse for local government reporting to state and federal agencies.

DIR should coordinate with the Local Government Assistance division of the Comptroller’s office, local governments, state and federal agencies, the Conference of Urban Counties, the Texas Association of Counties, and the Texas Municipal League to create a statewide data clearinghouse to receive and report data electronically from cities and counties. During the 2002-03 biennium, DIR should develop policies, procedures, data standards, and training materials, and perform other duties to prepare for the establishment of the clearinghouse in fiscal 2004.

DIR should also develop options for funding the ongoing updating, maintenance, or expansion of the clearinghouse by using resources from participating agencies to recoup the cost of developing and maintaining the clearinghouse. Each option should address the potential impact on participation. In the event the Legislature does not establish a PMO at DIR, DIR should be responsible for the coordination of this project.

State agencies should be required to accept the data collected by the clearinghouse to satisfy their reporting requirements. The federal government already has made a similar commitment through the Government Paperwork Elimination Act.

Fiscal Impact

If created by the 2001 Legislature, during the 2002-03 biennium the PMO and the state agency working group would identify state and federal reporting requirements, make recommendations to the 2003 Legislature for reducing local reporting requirements and consolidating telecommunications, and plan the electronic data clearinghouse. This estimate assumes that during each of these two years, DIR would employ one analyst, at a salary of $68,750, including benefits, to oversee a budget of $50,000 in the first year. The remainder could be carried over into fiscal 2003 to complete these tasks.

In fiscal 2004, developing and implementating the data clearinghouse would be substantially complete. The cost of development is estimated at $1,034,000 including hardware and software at $566,000 and contract personnel costs of $468,000, based on an estimated 585 contractor days assuming eight-hour days at $100 per hour. Subsequent software licenses and support would cost $89,000 per year. Added to that total would be the cost of staffing the data clearinghouse. In addition to the analyst added in 2002, the PMO should be authorized to employ three analysts beginning in 2004 at the same salary to work with local governments and state and federal agencies to ensure the effective transfer of information.

Fiscal Year
Savings/(Cost) to the General Revenue Fund
Change in FTEs


[1] 44 USC Sec. 3502.

[2] Office of Management and Budget, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Information Collection Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2000 (Washington, DC), pp. 83-84, (http://www.whitehouse.gov/media/pdf/icbfy2000.pdf). (Internet document.)

[3] 44 USC Sec. 3505.

[4] US Office of Management and Budget, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Information Collection Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 1999, p. 262.

[5] Office of Court Administration, Draft Report, “Statutory Reporting Requirements for Texas Trial Courts,” Austin, Texas, February 2000.

[6] Telephone interview with Cobey Condrey, coordinator, State Publications Clearinghouse, Texas State Library and Archives, Austin, Texas, September 20, 2000.

[7] E-mail communication from James Wells, Denton County Auditor, July 12, 2000.

[8] The “Texas County Road and Bridge Expenditures Yearly Report #40-133” seeks expenditure data on all county roads and bridges. The “County Lateral Road Report” only asks for data on expenditures on lateral roads in the county. The Comptroller’s office does not audit either report except to verify that the amount spent on lateral roads in the prior year agrees with the amount allocated for that year.

[9] E-mail communication from Judy Miller, Treasury Operations, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, September 6, 2000.

[10 ]The County Information Project, The Texas Association of Counties, Preliminary Report to the House Committee on County Affairs 77th Legislature, July 15, 2000.

[11] Office of Management and Budget, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Information Collection Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2000, pp. 1-10.

e-Texas is an initiative of Carole Keeton Rylander, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Post Office Box 13528, Capitol Station
Austin, Texas

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