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South Orange has a track record of putting budget information online and presenting clear information about budgets during the meetings. In 2012, we took it a step further, by placing our actual $32 million municipal budget online in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. This allows anyone to download the budget, play with the numbers, see what changes have what effect, as well as help put our information out in there in a standardized format that can be used by third party application developers or services.
When village-wide reassessments took place in 2012 and many residents found themselves wanting more information about how the budget worked, how much of the increase came from the Village versus the reassessment and more, we didn't shy away from explaining the details, but rather placed a very detailed explanation and discussion of these issues on our website and in local media.
Realizing that there isn't adequate time for community members to present their comments in the Board meetings, in 2012 I added a second public comment period to every single Board meeting. One comment period before the Board takes any action, and one after, allowing members of the public to comment during both periods. South Orange has a long history of placing agendas (and other public documents) online, and these new comment periods help allow citizens to give us their feedback on those items.
For example, by requiring that all agenda submissions for considering at a public meeting be submitted through an online form, instead of just by open-ended email, more information is able to be gathered, tracked and logged. Agenda submissions (By Board members as well as department heads) require estimated budget impact, narrative, scheduled meeting priority, history of committee review, for example. More information is able to be presented to the governing body and the public before the meeting.