Local governments spend thousands of dollars to publish information in newspapers, while the state pays much less

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – Counties and cities spend thousands of taxpayer dollars to place information, which is sometimes available online, in a newspaper. Iowa law requires cities and counties to publish acts of local government, such as meeting agendas and notices of public hearings.

However, our KCRG-TV9 i9 investigation team learned that the same laws do not apply to the state legislature. Instead, the state legislature is only required to publish proposed constitutional amendments. The result is a great disparity between the amount of money that different types of governments pay to inform the public about government procedures.

Over the past five years, the Town of Cedar Rapids has posted 1,957 public notices for $ 178,400.96. The state legislature paid approximately $ 585. Smaller towns, such as the town of Marion, must also pay for public notices. They have spent approximately $ 17,000 each of the last two fiscal years on public notices.

Lon Pluckhahn, who is Marion’s former city manager, originally believed the amount paid by the state would be much higher. He said the value of placing public notices in newspapers is not the same as when he started working in public administration.

“To be completely honest, I think the value proposition has gone down, even since I’ve been in public administration,” Pluckhahn said.

However, he also said there is a moral obligation to keep people informed about local issues, as well as to support an employer like a newspaper.

“If we propose to rezone a neighborhood,” Pluckhahn said. “I think we have an obligation to tell this neighborhood that we are re-zoning this neighborhood. “

Local governments pay a fixed rate on public notices, which is based on a formula. Posts should also be of a certain font size, so that they are readable. The Iowa Newspaper Association also places all public notices on a aggregated online website.

Susan Patterson Plank, executive director of the Iowa Newspaper Association, said local newspapers make money from public notices. But, she said, spending on public notices is only a small percentage of government budgets, like copying paper.

“The necessities like soap in the bathrooms, and stuff like that, all of those things are the cost of the government,” Patterson Plank said. “And educating your citizens is probably one of the most important things you can do. So when you think about this cost benefit. It is not very high.

She also said that posting public notices in the newspaper helps those who are not connected to the internet.

Copyright 2021 KCRG. All rights reserved.

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