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September 23, 2008

 

DiNapoli Unveils Budget Data for 3,100 Local Governments

WWW.OPENBOOKNEWYORK.COM Gives Public
Unprecedented Access to State and Local Government Spending

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New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced that financial data for 3,100 counties, cities, towns, villages, schools and fire districts are now part of the Open Book New York Web site. DiNapoli launched Open Book New York (www.openbooknewyork.com) in June as part of his effort to inform taxpayers about how government spends their money.

Open Book New York gives taxpayers unprecedented access to local government finance,” DiNapoli said.  “New Yorkers have a right to know how their tax dollars are spent, and Open Book delivers that information with just a few mouse clicks. Now more than ever, we need to make sure every dime counts. The more New Yorkers know, the more efficient their government will be.”

“Democracy is a participation sport, and Open Book lets every citizen participate.  New Yorkers now have access to the information they need to hold government accountable and make sure their tax dollars aren’t being wasted.  And we’re not stopping here.  We have more improvements in the pipeline. Stay tuned, New York.”

DiNapoli launched this latest version of Open Book New York in conjunction with the release of his 2008 Annual Report on Local Governments.

Open Book New York makes it easy for taxpayers to compare year-to-year revenue and spending trends for the last 11 years, starting in 1996 and ending in 2006. Detailed breakdowns by revenue type and spending category are also included. Data will be added on a quarterly basis. In the future, DiNapoli plans to include debt, tax and demographic data on local governments, as well as data for special purpose units, industrial development agencies and other local units of governments.

Open Book Local Government is another step forward by Comptroller DiNapoli in providing the information regarding local governments to the general public,” said New York Conference of Mayors President John McDonald: “Local governments such as the members of NYCOM represent those governments closest to the people and we are used to and welcome the disclosure and public scrutiny that this report provides. Additionally, this information reaffirms the concerns and issues that local governments have been stating year after year - our revenue opportunities are few and far between and the continued expansion of unfunded mandates is a major driving force in regards to expenses.  With Open Book, we continue in a user friendly manner to share the plight of local government with the taxpayer and our legislative and executive leaders.”

The Web site also features searchable databases of state government spending including more than 60,000 State contracts and spending for more than 100 state agencies. The contracts database is updated nightly and can be searched by agency, company, timeframe, dollar amount and more. Spending for state agencies includes information for several spending categories, such as contractual services, travel, equipment, grants, salaries and wages, employee benefits, and supplies and materials. The state agency spending is updated quarterly.

Open Book New York contains glossaries that define all terms and frequently asked questions to help the end-user find an answer quickly. Data can be downloaded as a PDF file or an Excel spreadsheet. The public can also call the Comptroller’s help desk at 866-370-4672 (toll-free) or (518) 408-4672 or send an e-mail to helpdesk@osc.state.ny.us.

DiNapoli noted that the annual report on local government finances points to a rough road ahead. A deteriorating economy and rising costs have strained local finances, forcing many local governments to tighten their belts. ales tax collections slowed significantly in the first half of 2008 compared to the same period last year. Consumers are spending less, leaving local governments scrambling to fill budget shortfalls. A slow down in home sales is also affecting town budgets. In the first half of 2007, mortgage tax collection on Long Island decreased about $94 million, or 42 percent, compared to the first half of 2006. On the expenditure side, rising energy costs, employee benefits and commodity prices are also putting pressure on municipal budgets. 

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