- Associated Press - Monday, February 24, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A North Dakota agency has created a website to help residents track the billions of dollars that are gushing into the oil rich state’s treasury.

North Dakota Treasurer Kelly Schmidt said North Dakota residents increasingly have been interested seeing how the money is managed and where it is going. The agency launched a link on its home page Friday that allows residents to see fund balances and how the money is being used.

“It’s important for people to see the information,” Schmidt said.

The agency, which has just eight people including Schmidt, had been fielding numerous calls and emails about the status of the state’s finances.

“In addition, our website had been getting about 10,000 hits a month,” Schmidt said. “We really saw a lot of people looking for information.”

About 40 separate pots of money are being tracked on the new website - everything from an abandoned mine reclamation fund to one sets aside money for veterans’ cemetery maintenance.

North Dakota has risen to No. 2 among the nation’s oil-producing states behind Texas. Its mushrooming treasury is credited largely to sales tax collections from the prosperous oil economy.

The state’s estimated budget surplus is about $2.8 billion and millions more is held in state funds that are set aside for such things as public works projects and property tax cuts, said Tammy Dolan, a fiscal analyst for the state Office of Management and Budget.

Schmidt said few people had interest in tracking North Dakota’s finances when she was first elected nine years ago, and before the state’s oil production exploded.

Everyone from lawmakers “to average Joe Citizen wants to know how much is in the funds and what they are being used for,” Schmidt said. “We just felt this was the right thing to do.”

Schmidt said her agency will update information on the website quarterly.

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Online:

Treasury website, https://www.nd.gov/ndtreas/governmentfunds.htm

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Follow James MacPherson on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/macphersonja

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