John Whittaker

Legislation introduced earlier this year in the state Senate would make it state law for municipalities to maintain websites.

S.4908, sponsored by Sen. James Skoufis, D-Newburgh, would amend the state’s General Municipal Law by adding a new article titled “Municipal Websites.”

The legislation will require municipalities to maintain a website that is accessible to the public and provides important information to residents. Websites must contain basic information, financial reports, meeting and election notices, meeting agendas and minutes, and an updated version of local code or laws.

Skoufis’ legislation references a 2014 Empire Center highlighted the poor quality of municipal websites many of which lacked basic information. The report found that less than 20% of local governments received a passing grade on their website’s availability of information and usability including two municipalities that did not have a website. Some of those websites have improved over the past five years, including Jamestown’s, which received an “F” rating in 2014. The updated city website includes all of the information Skoufis’ legislation would mandate.

“This report’s findings are troubling,” Skoufis said in his legislative justification.

“In 2019, there is no excuse for a municipality not to have a website that is updated regularly and provides citizens with basic information about the operations of their local government.”

Skoufis’ legislation, which was also introduced in the state Assembly and was also introduced in the 2015-16 and 2017-18 legislative session,

A Post-Journal review of area websites showed that most Chautauqua County municipalities have websites, but many don’t have the type of information that Skoufis is requesting they have. For more information, see chart on Page AX. Only three municipalities don’t have websites at all — Arkwright, Harmony and Stockton. Chautauqua County, Jamestown, Dunkirk, Lakewood, North Harmony and Mayville have all of the information that Skoufis’ legislation mandates. Many websites don’t post financial reports or budget summaries while 23 didn’t include a posting of a municipality’s upcoming meeting agenda. Several others posted several categories of information, including zoning code information, but not information about municipal laws and codes.

“The Empire Center undertook this project not to place blame on any individual local government, rather to highlight the need for advancement in how and when data and information is presented on websites,” the 2014 Empire Center report states. “With no real guidance for what makes a good website, the SeeThrough Government Rankings should provide a basis and a benchmark by which local governments can see how websites stack up from one municipality to the next. By implementing changes based on the results of this assessment — most, if not all of which can be achieved at little or no cost — local governments of all sizes can greatly increase the usefulness of their own websites and better connect taxpayers to the range of information to which they are entitled.”

© 2019 The Post-Journal

You may also like


Six-figure pensions are becoming the norm among retirees from New York’s largest downstate suburban police departments, according to data posted at, the Empire Center’s transparency website. Read More

EDITORIAL: State schools continue spending more for less

As reported by the Empire Center last week, “The number of students enrolled in New York state public schools is the lowest recorded in 30 years.” Since 2000, enrollment in public schools has declined by more than 10 percent statewide with most of it upstate as enrollment in New York City schools has increased 1.3 percent in the last 10 years. Students are not leaving to go to private or parochial schools either because they, too, are showing declines, down about 8 percent in the last decade. Read More

What Cuomo’s executive order on vaping will and won’t do

“If you have these really young kids and teens getting hooked, then that’s not good," said Bill Hammond, director of health policy at the Empire Center for Public Policy. "But the first step would be to do some research, have a public hearing, get the best expert evidence that you have. Instead of reacting to headlines, find out what’s really going on and proceed with proposed regulations.” Read More

BLOG: Think tank cites state’s anti-pipeline policies in fatal acciden

The Empire Center said Tuesday that the fatal accident involving a natural gas truck outside Binghamton on Monday, is a negative consequence of the state government’s opposition to gas pipelines. Read More

Genesee Community College president tops pay list in Finger Lakes

ALBANY — Genesee Community College President Dr. James Sunser was the highest-paid municipal government worker in the Finger Lakes region, according to the latest edition of “What They Make,” the Empire Center’s annual report summarizing total local government pay. Read More

Cuomo blames lawmakers for plate fee set by his administration

The new replacement policy, which was tucked into a press release announcing new plate designs, has been criticized as a "revenue enhancer wrapped in a public relations ploy" by E.J. McMahon of the fiscally conservative Empire Center for Public Policy. Read More

Delaware psychiatrist tops Southern Tier public salaries

A Delaware County employee was named the highest-paid in the Southern Tier, according to an annual report released Wednesday by the Empire Center for Public Policy, an Albany-based nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank. Read More

New York license plate fee increase draws criticism

"The 'current' $25 fee was for an optional plate choice," said E.J. McMahon, research director at the Empire Center for Public Policy. "The new fee will be mandatory -- the first time ever.  This is a revenue grab under the guise of a PR stunt. Yes, the plates need replacement.  But they don’t cost $25 apiece to manufacture." Read More