Capital Clicks

Iowa Auditor Rob Sand announces cost-cutting competition winners

By: - August 30, 2022 6:03 pm

Iowa Auditor of State Rob Sand held a news conference about the Public Innovations and Efficiencies (PIE) program winners Monday, Aug. 29 at the Iowa State Capitol. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

More city and county governments are participating in the state auditor’s cost-cutting competition this year, Iowa Auditor Rob Sand said in a news conference Monday.

Sand announced the winners of this year’s Public Innovations and Efficiencies (PIE) program, which was created in 2019 to help public entities find new ways to save money. To participate, local leaders submit a “PIE Chart” and measure what steps they’ve taken to reduce waste and save energy and money. Suggestions in the program range from starting a compost system, to keeping electronics unplugged overnight, to sending digital documents instead of printing papers when possible.

The auditor’s office measured how many of the recommendations outlined in the program were implemented. The auditor’s office named five “best performing” city and county winners based on size, as well as a “most improved” winner in each category. Overall, the best performing county was Johnson County, and the best performing city Des Moines. For “most improved,” Jackson County and the city of Gilbertville won.

Winners like Gilbertville took steps to save taxpayer dollars that included adding fuel-efficient vehicles to their workforces’ fleets, installing LED lightbulbs and repairing plumbing problems in public buildings. Each contestant was asked what they had done to save money and how they did it. The auditor’s website offers a “PIE recipes” page, where government workers can share their tips and strategies with others across Iowa.

“By making that comparison, (we) foster a little bit of sense of competition, a little bit of achievement for people really working to conserve tax dollars,” Sand said.

Participation in the PIE program grew more than 55% this past year, Sand said, with 84 counties and 310 cities entering the competition. He also pointed to Mississippi, where Republican State Auditor Shad White followed in Iowa’s footsteps and started a similar competition, to show its effectiveness.

This year was also the first time that school districts participated, with 121 districts submitting entries. Iowa schools have seen a “pinch” in the past few years, Sand said, and were ready to take on cost-saving measures. Hamburg Community School District was the “best performing” district in the competition overall. Winners and runners-up were also named in four categories based on district size.

“I think school districts are particularly keen to see ways they can save money,” Sand said. “Because they understand they can make these pitches and maybe save enough money to help a teacher in a classroom.”

Sand plans to hand-deliver a pie to public officials in each winning community, according to a news release.

2022 PIE program winners


  • Best Performing County: Johnson
  • Best Performing Largest Fifth County: Johnson
  • Best Performing Second Fifth County: Clayton
  • Best Performing Middle Fifth County: Kossuth
  • Best Performing Fourth Fifth County: Louisa
  • Best Performing Smallest Fifth County: Ringgold
  • Most Improved County: Jackson


  • Best Performing City: Des Moines
  • Best Performing Largest Fifth City: Des Moines
  • Best Performing Second Fifth City: Guttenberg
  • Best Performing Middle Fifth City: Milo
  • Best Performing Fourth Fifth City: Plainfield
  • Best Performing Smallest Fifth City: Fostoria
  • Most Improved City: Gilbertville

Community school districts:

  • Best Performing Community School District: Hamburg
  • Best Performing 4A Community School District: College
  • Best Performing 4A Runner Up Community School District: Bettendorf
  • Best Performing 3A Community School District: Howard-Winneshiek
  • Best Performing 3A Runner Up Community School District: Sioux Central
  • Best Performing 2A Community School District: MFL MarMac
  • Best Performing 2A Runner Up Community School District: Missouri Valley
  • Best Performing 1A Community School District: Hamburg
  • Best Performing 1A Runner Up Community School District: Belle Plaine

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.