For immediate release | April 24th 2012
As part of its continuing commitment to transparency in government, the Village of South Orange announced that the Village’s 2012 Municipal Budget is in new, easier to use online formats. In addition to the traditional posting of a PDF containing the lengthy official state budget document, the 2012 South Orange operating budget is now also available at southorange.org/budget in the following new formats:
1) A condensed spreadsheet PDF of the budget which compresses the 50+ pages of the state document into a manageable 7 page document.
2) An Excel spreadsheet of the condensed budget which will allow the reader to actually manipulate the appropriation lines to see the effect on the overall budget and tax levy.
Village President Alex Torpey said that “Providing the budget document in an actual workable spreadsheet is another great step to making our budget and finances as transparent as possible. Residents can now actually play with budget numbers themselves, seeing what the impact of various funding levels for different departments would be and what the tax levy impact would be if those changes were made.”
Many government agencies, especially at the federal level, have in recent years begun offering budget documents in spreadsheets that allow citizens to manipulate numbers themselves. Older, static PDF budget formats were “read-only,” providing the same basic information, but not allowing people to manipulate information and see the impact on the budget and tax levy.
South Orange, long a leader in transparent government and public information, is one of only a few New Jersey municipalities certified to maintain certain public records in searchable, indexed digital formats rather than in physical ones, saving costs, reducing environmental waste and providing the information in a more accessible format. In addition, minutes, agendas, resolutions, ordinances, and committee documents are available online going many years back, as well as actual videos of all of the Board of Trustees meetings for the past several years.
Village Administrator Barry Lewis commented that, “The Village is committed to transparency in government and providing the fullest opportunity for our residents to participate in our budget process in a real and meaningful way. Presenting the budget in a simplified and straightforward format, as well as in an interactive spreadsheet, furthers that objective and provides our taxpayers with unprecedented access to, and understanding of, the Village budget.”
The Board of Trustees has introduced a budget for 2012 that is the lowest tax levy increase in many years, reducing over $1 million in appropriations without major service cuts or staff layoffs. The hearing for the final adoption is scheduled for the May 14th meeting of the Board of Trustees.
Village President Torpey continued that, “Although we understand that our website needs a complete overhaul as far as design and layout, we currently do have a wealth of information available to residents that in many other towns would require a lengthy and costly OPRA (Open Public Records Act) request. We have opted to be proactive and provide as much information that people can just immediately download and view, and that concept is actually becoming a state-wide model for reducing costs and improving transparency of local governments.”