Meet the face of the Taxpayers Research Council - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Meet the face of the Taxpayers Research Council

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) - He's a fixture at meetings where taxpayer money is being spent.  James Van Bruggen of the Taxpayers Research Council is not shy about weighing in when it comes to fiscal matters in Woodbury County.  If the city council, board of supervisors or school board in Sioux City are talking money, you can bet he'll be there to do some talking, too.

James Van Bruggen is the face of the Taxpayers Research Council; the group's lone paid employee.  Their mission?

"The Taxpayers Research Council's goal is to promote more efficient and effective use of our tax dollars within our local government," Van Bruggen said.

The TRC goes back 76 years in Sioux City, to when Iowa law first allowed citizens to protest local government budgets.  They consider themselves an eye, ear and voice of the taxpayer.  Van Bruggen is often the only person who speaks up at these meetings, holding elected officials accountable on matters of public spending.

"Our organization on a daily basis, we're monitoring everything that goes on."  Van Bruggen said.  "The average citizen in our community isn't going to spend every waking moment keeping track of what happens in our local government."

He's a one-man staff at the TRC, but Van Bruggen does answer to a board that meets once a month at the office here at the Commerce Building.

"I think the TRC can best be defined as a pro-prudent spending of our tax dollars.  We are not an anti-tax group." said Jim Johnson, the current president of the board.

Board members study, discuss and decide where the TRC will stand on issues of public spending.

"We all need to pay taxes.  We'd like to see them spent well and that's our goal," said Johnson.

Van Bruggen said, "Often people view us as being critical, but we also want to give our support when things are going the right way."

Case in point, when the school board approved a small drop in the tax levy last month, the TRC commended the move.  And though it's sometimes seen as right-leaning, there are both Republicans and Democrats on the TRC board.  Members don't always seen eye-to-eye.

"Someone on the board once said that if we have everybody at the table agree, then we don't have enough people at the table," said Van Bruggen.  "I do think we make a difference.  We might not always see the outcome that we're looking for, but we definitely try to challenge and make people make our elected officials think a little bit more about the issues."

Any time taxpayer money is being spent, the Taxpayers Research Council will be there.

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