Local entities among state auditor’s PIE program winners

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State Auditor Rob Sand visited Elkader on Sept. 15, as part of his yearly town hall tour, which he uses to listen to residents and gather feedback at a local level. The top issues heard during the visit were combating waste and fraud in government spending and creating more government efficiency. Sand, who is currently running for re-election, highlighted his bi-partisan approach to the office, the success of the Public Innovations and Efficiencies (PIE) program and improvements in Iowa’s Targeted Small Business program for women, minorities, the disabled and veterans. Sand, who grew up in northeast Iowa, said, “I feel at home when I’m touring around here.”

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register


Several local entities—including Clayton County, the city of Guttenberg and the MFL MarMac School District—have been announced as winners in Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand’s Public Innovations and Efficiencies (PIE) program.


“The auditor’s office is excited to see local leaders share our passion for saving tax dollars,” said Sand. “Collectively, we have the potential to unlock hundreds of millions of dollars in savings for our communities.”


Sand created the PIE program in 2019 to encourage governmental entities to implement cost-cutting measures and spark innovative ideas to save public funds. The PIE program also provides local leaders with tools to collaborate and share their concepts, known as PIE recipes, via the Auditor of State website.


“If someone has a great idea on how to save tax dollars, we want them to spread the word,” said Sand. “PIE provides local leaders with an easy, streamlined sharing process.”


PIE is a growing initiative. In the past year alone, participation in Iowa has increased by more than 55 percent. According to the Iowa State Auditor’s Office, 84 counties and 310 cities submitted entries in 2021, and for the first time, 121 school districts participated. 


Superintendent Dale Crozier admitted he chuckled upon hearing of MFL MarMac’s recognition as the Best Performing 2A Community School District.


“It was sort of an accident that we got this, as I had no idea it was a contest or competition,” Crozier said. “Basically, we just filled out a survey and submitted it. I thought that, if the state auditor wanted it, we had better do it.”


Crozier noted MFL MarMac has become more efficient, particularly through energy use. He listed the installation of LED lighting and high R-value windows, as well as more efficient boiler systems and having air conditioners for the fall and spring. 


“Things like that have been helping us as we move forward in projects,” he said, “and I actually think there are a lot more things we can do to save on energy.”


In fact, MFL MarMac has tapped Alliant Energy to complete a voluntary energy audit soon.


“I think we will be looking at things like heat pumps, the feasibility of solar and other more long-range ideas,” Crozier said.


The state auditor’s office named Clayton the “Best Performing Second Fifth County.” This isn’t the first time the county has participated in the PIE program, but the first time its efforts have been recognized.


“The county has participated for a couple of years...to help evaluate the measures that were currently in place and to strive for improvement,” according to Clayton County Auditor Jennifer Garms. “It solidifies that, as a county, we are moving in the right direction and are trying to be more fiscally responsible for our taxpayers.”


Garms said Clayton County has implemented a wide range of efficiency measures, including LED light replacements, drinking fountain replacements, lowering paper consumption and digitization of records, in addition to items in place prior to the creation of the PIE initiative. 


“The replacements have cut down on monthly costs and the digitization of records has helped for ease of access and allowed for citizens who used to travel to view the records to save,” she explained.


Other projects are currently in mind, but have not yet met the threshold to “check off” the box for the PIE assessment. Examples include solar panel installation, additional LED light replacement and replacement of items not rated with EnergyStar.


Unfortunately, noted Garms, some PIE program “recipes” are not feasible due to Clayton County’s size.


“There are recipes or items listed on the assessment that work at large county level, but not so much as a smaller county level. The objective remains the same, but the wording of the assessment doesn’t allow for the county to check the box,” she shared. “An example of this is an internal supply store. Our county doesn’t have the rotating inventory to warrant this, but as Clayton County works to streamline processes, items like binders, filing cabinets and working surfaces are shared or transferred among departments.”


“The county is also reviewing the Iowa Lean Consortium and the Iowa Office of Lean Enterprise to see how these resources can be beneficial,” Garms added. “County officials also learn about other ideas through networking as they attend conferences throughout the year.”

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