Each year, local governments are required by law to release financial information detailing how much was paid on salaries, including a list of all employees that made more than $75,000 per year.
And each year, most media outlets grab those numbers and throw them into their newspapers and onto websites.
The difficulty is, they are just numbers. You can gaze at them for hours but they won’t tell you anything, not without context.
Does running these numbers serve the public? Does it explain government spending?
With those questions in mind, Black Press papers in the West Kootenay decided to join forces to bring a more complete picture to the financial statements.
Led by Nelson Star reporter Greg Nesteroff, reporters in Castlegar, Trail and Grand Forks began compiling information to create a comprehensive package that examined, not just the salaries paid, but at the population of the communities and the services offered.
Instead of just looking at the totals, our reporters explored where that money was being spent.
The result is a three-page feature called Crunching Numbers. It looks at local cities, school boards and regional districts in our area and compares their figures. The special news feature will be published in this week’s West Kootenay Advertiser. We encourage everyone interested in knowing where the municipal tax dollars are going, to read it.
More importantly, we want to know what you think. Did we dig deep enough into the story? Does it make the numbers more understandable? Do you want more features like this?