Local Government Transparency

View individual transparency sites from our participating counties and municipalities

West Virginia Checkbook continues to partner with West Virginia counties to provide their constituents access to county checkbook sites that display county expenses. Search county-level vendor transactions, checks, and county expenditures with this tool.

In 2019, West Virginia Checkbook launched Project Mountaineer, partnering with West Virginia cities and towns to provide a public transparency portal to the public, while also providing city and town officials and managers with interactive dashboards, enhanced reporting functionality, and fiscal health monitoring. Explore our city partner sites on this page.

What is Project Mountaineer?

Project Mountaineer is a project initiated by the West Virginia State Auditor's Office. The goal is to provide West Virginia county commissions and municipalities with accounting and reporting software at no cost. We anticipate Project Mountaineer achieving several objectives:


  • Enhance the local government's financial reporting capabilities, providing local government leaders with quality data.
  • Provide a robust fiscal distress monitoring mechanism to prevent potential fiscal distress in our local governments
  • Improve interaction with local government constituents, allowing them to interact with local government expenses and revenues on an ongoing basis.
  • Potentially decrease audit costs for local governments.

What folks are saying.....

"Just an email to let you know we are receiving positive feedback on having our financials transparent. I would encourage all counties and municipalities to participate in this program. It is vital in taking that next step to provide our citizens with a clear understanding of what happens to a town's budget throughout the year. Thank you for providing such a great service!"

- Sharon Cruikshank, Mayor of Fayetteville, WV

“I am proud that my office has worked with Auditor JB McCuskey, Commissioner Tricia Jackson and the rest of the Jefferson County Commission to roll out Project Mountaineer via WV Checkbook here in Jefferson County. One of my duties as Clerk is to maintain financial records for Jefferson County. I also believe that taxpayers in Jefferson County and across West Virginia have a right to know how every penny of their tax money is spent and the State Auditor’s WV Checkbook site makes it easy for residents to access this important information in real-time.”

- Jacki Shadle, Clerk of Jefferson County, WV

Are you a local government (West Virginia County Commission or West Virginia Municipality)?

We'd love to partner with you. Please visit this link to fill out the intake form for municipalities and this link to fill out the intake form for county commissions.

Intro to Local Government Bookkeeping

Fund Accounting

The City of Elkins in Randolph County, WV created a high level overview of how local governments keep their books, and how each local government categorizes funds for their City, and best practices/restrictions for those funds. We are very appreciative of their willingness to share this overview, and we hope it aids you in consuming the information given in our local government transparency sites.

Overview

Although governments and private businesses have much in common, one crucial difference has to do with their accounting methods—that is, how they organize and account for resources, revenues, and expenditures. This is because private businesses are organized with a focus on profitability, while governments are organized with a focus on public accountability.

As a result, private businesses do not necessarily face legal restrictions restricting how they can spend certain categories of revenue—but cities do. Cities and other governments are restricted in how they can spend revenues; what the restrictions are depends on the sources of the revenues. These restrictions are reflected in the accounting system governments use, which is called fund accounting. Fund accounting is a method of recording financial resources and activities within restricted categories.

For local governments, the three main types of fund are governmental, proprietary, and fiduciary.

Governmental funds account for the core services and activities of a city government. Governmental funds—and the activities they pay for—are mostly tax supported.

Proprietary funds account for business-like activities of the government, such as utilities. Proprietary funds are concerned with activities financed by self-generated revenues.

Fiduciary funds hold resources in trust for entities or individuals other than the government, such as employee pension funds.

The following sections provide more explanation of and examples about governmental and proprietary funds in the Elkins context. (Fiduciary funds are not discussed in this article.)

Governmental Funds

As mentioned above, governmental funds account for the core services and operations of a city government. A city’s primary governmental fund is called the General Fund. The General Fund is the city’s basic operating fund. One way of thinking about a General Fund is that it accounts for all monies not required by law to be accounted for in proprietary funds (more on proprietary funds below).

The revenue sources for the Elkins General Fund are taxes and fees. There are more than two dozen categories of revenue that flow into our General Fund. The four largest are property taxes, business taxes, hotel taxes, and sales tax. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020, the City of Elkins budgeted for about $5.5 million in General Fund revenues. (You can find the city’s annual budgets via this page.)

In Elkins, as in most cities, the General Fund pays for activities like street repairs, snow plowing, the police department, planning and zoning, building inspections, code enforcement, financial administration, customer service, legislative processes, downtown beautification, the functioning and upkeep of city hall, and many other basic services and operations of the city government.

Proprietary Funds

Also as mentioned above, proprietary funds account for business-like activities of the government. The most common example is utilities. Under West Virginia law, sewer, water, and other utilities operated by a municipality must be run as standalone businesses, with their resources, revenues and expenditures accounted for in a type of self-balancing proprietary fund called an enterprise fund. Here in Elkins, our enterprise funds are the Water Fund, the Sewer Fund, and the Sanitation Fund.

One of the defining characteristics of an enterprise fund is that no money can be transferred in or out of it. The only allowed income for a utility enterprise fund is the money that the utility’s customers pay for service (also known as “the rates”). The only allowed use of that income is for the operation, maintenance, and development of that utility.

Why These Restrictions Exist

The purpose behind the restrictions described above, again, is accountability. If money paid by, say, the sewer utility’s customers could be transferred from the Sewer Fund into the General Fund, or vice-versa, unscrupulous officials might be tempted to do so to cover deficits and avoid unpopular policy changes.

By concealing the true costs of basic government services (accounted for in the General Fund) or utility operations (accounted for in the Sewer, Water, or Sanitation Funds), allowing the free flow of monies between funds could reduce public accountability. Lack of restrictions on inter-fund transfers could conceal poor budgeting, ineffective planning, and other mismanagement that could spell disaster for the city and/or its utilities in the long term.