F, F, F, F, F, F and F.

Those are grades you certainly wouldn’t want to bring home to your parents.

Except for one good excuse: Everyone else got Fs, too.

Those were the grades given to government websites in a report by Empire Center for New York State Policy.

F was also the grade given to Empire from those overseeing websites.

“We recently revamped our site and we’re pretty proud of it,” said Batavia City Manager Jason Molino. “We spent a lot of time on it.”

A little background on the report:

Empire Center is an independent research group that reviewed more than 500 local government and school district websites throughout the state.

The report was published on SeeThroughNY last month.

Researchers in what could be one of the most boring jobs ever pored over such things as budgets, public information, financial reports, contact information and information on public meetings, 10 categories in all.

“Most of the 500 websites we reviewed between July and September need major improvements before they will be providing citizens with all the public information to which they are entitled,” said Tim Hoefer, author of the study. “Of the 500 websites ranked, 427 failed to receive even a minimum passing grade of D.”

In other words, class, 85 percent failed. Big fat Fs.

That includes eight websites in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties that were reviewed.

For the most part, local websites are administered by clerks. Batavia’s site is overseen by a committee headed by the assistant city manager, Molino said.

A review of town and village websites in Genesee County showed all had basic information, including the names of officials, when and where board meetings are conducted and minutes from previous meetings.

Many included newsletters and alerts and links to other websites pertaining to the town or village.

Most are boring, to say the least, but are easily navigable.

All municipalities in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties have websites except two: the Town of Alabama and Village of Le Roy.

Alabama has no plans to create one, at least not anytime soon.

And Le Roy once had a site attached to the town’s but that went by the wayside.

Village officials are currently planning a new site, expected to debut about Jan. 1 as part of the town’s website.

Empire Center did not, however, review any town websites in Genesee, Orleans or Wyoming counties.

Empire reviewed just eight sites locally: all three county sites, the City of Batavia’s and city school district site, Pioneer Central School and the villages of Albion and Medina.

Scores were based on a total of 146 points for the 10 categories.

The city school district, for example, received a score of 72 out of 146.

“It’s one group’s opinion,” Superintendent Chris Dailey, who didn’t put much stock in the report, said. “We’ve had many people tell us our site’s been helpful. But we are constantly looking to upgrade our site and put more information on it.”

The city tied with Wyoming County for the highest score locally, both receiving an 83.

Medina received the lowest at 53.

Of the counties, Genesee ranked last at 60.

“We took it seriously,” County Manager Jay Gsell said. “It was a wake-up call.”

Gsell and information technology Director Stephen Zimmer actually responded to Empire Center regarding the report.

“We already made some changes and it’s a work-in-progress,” Gsell said. “We know we have a ways to go. It was insightful. The younger people, that’s the only way they know us is they come to the county portal.”

Gsell said he and Zimmer are looking at ways to make the site more accessible and determine what type of information people want when they visit.

Molino, too, said the city’s website will only get better but perhaps not in terms of official information that is provided.

“Batavia fared better than most,” Molino said. “Most of what they reviewed is subjective. Is a site supposed to be a total repository for everything and is it supposed to replace the Freedom of Information Act? That would be a massive investment to make everything accessible all the time.”

Instead, he said, a website should be reflective of the community.

More of a tourism tool.

“It’s an important part of the website,” he said. “Some communities use the site as a tool for economic development.”

The city’s site includes information on local businesses, links to restaurants and other amenities and an invitation to “explore all that the City has to offer.”

“When you visit a city, you just don’t go there and try and figure out what to do,” he said. “You visit the website first.”

None of that was among the categories reviewed by Empire Center.

© 2014 The Daily News

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