Local govs score with better websites

by Tim Hoefer |  | NY Torch

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In 2014, the Empire Center created guidelines for what information local governments and school districts should make available on their websites—and found that most of the state’s 500 largest municipalities and districts were not meeting that standard.

The SeeThroughNY Local Government Website Report Card, which flunked 85 percent of the websites it scored, began a conversation about local government transparency in the Internet era. Sixteen months later, we’re continuing to hear from local officials who are using the Report Card to improve their websites; good news for sure.

In a follow-up last year, we highlighted five entities that had already improved their websites. And we’ve since heard from more than 20 municipalities and school districts that are using the Report Card to improve their websites.

Kudos to each and every one of them for taking the initiative. There isn’t a category of the Report Card that at least one municipality hasn’t improved upon. The categories dealing with Contact Information, Public Information (FOIL), Budgets, Financial Reports and Contracts were the most substantially improved among those that reported changes.

Six municipalities reported launching new websites since the report card was first released. Five of those are total redesigns. The Village of Ballston Spa launched its website after our 2014 study reported the village didn’t have one.

Because they deserve acknowledgement for their commitment to transparency, here’s a breakdown of those entities that responded to our request for updates on work being done to improve local websites:

County:

Cattaraugus, Livingston, Madison, SchuylerTioga

City:

Ogdensburg, Utica

Town:

AmherstBabylon, Bethlehem, Brighton, Cortland, Greenburgh, Newcomb, SaugertiesWallkill, Wilton

Village:

Ballston Spa

School:

Broadalbin-Perth, Kingston, Mohonasen, Niskayuna, Shenendehowa

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- Tim Hoefer is the Executive Director at the Empire Center for Public Policy.