ASSEMBLY DEMOCRATIC BILL WOULD MAKE IT EASIER FOR RESIDENTS TO REVIEW LOCAL SPENDING

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by five Assembly Democrats to improve public transparency by making it easier for residents to review local government budgets on the Internet was released Monday by an Assembly panel.
The bill (A-2844) is sponsored by Pamela R. Lampitt (D-Camden), Paul Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden), Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex/Mercer) and Nelson Albano and Matthew W. Milam (both D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland).
“It’s easy in this day and age to post items on a website, and I see no excuse for not posting local budgets, which are the most basic public information and a key part of the tax bills in every community in this state,” Lampitt said. “This is a commonsense step toward keeping people informed about what’s driving their property tax bills.”
A 2007 law requires local governments to post budgets on their websites, if they have one. The new bill requires:
· The Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to post on its website the budget of any municipality or county that does not maintain its own website.
· Municipalities and counties to post on their websites the last three adopted budgets.
· The DCA to provide on its website the last three adopted budget of any municipality or county that does not maintain its own website.
“Under the current law, if a municipality or county doesn’t have a website, a local taxpayer seeking to inspect either the county or municipal budget, or both, would have to travel to the local library or a government facility,” Moriarty said. “That may be inconvenient or even impossible for some taxpayers, especially senior citizens, depriving them of an opportunity to examine the plans that their property taxes support.”
“The DCA, which has the obligation to review and approve county and municipal budgets, can and should facilitate the transparency of the local budget process by providing an online forum,” Greenstein said. “It’s a reasonable thing to make it as easy as possible to provide property taxpayers with as much information as we can.”
“With this bill, any taxpayer with access to the Internet can review these local budgets online at any time,” Milam said. “That would be a modern approach and a leap toward greater government transparency.”
“Making it easier to review public documents that help decide property taxes is a no-brainer,” Albano said. “We can do better, and with this bill, we will make local budgets readily available to everyone.”
The bill was released 5-0 Monday by the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee.