promote cost-saving and innovation in government services by opening municipal financial data in an accessible, online format to facilitate constructive use of the information
Due to the economic conditions of the past decade, municipalities have had fewer resources to meet the increasing demands on fundamental services like police and fire, water and sewer, housing and education. Local governments must find new, innovative ways of delivering these indispensable services. A proven approach to inviting innovation in cost-savings is making public data freely available in open, standardized formats. The most effective way of providing this data to the public is to make it available online in accessible, machine-readable formats, which facilitates constructive use of the information. A focus on opening municipal financial data will increase citizen participation, government transparency and efficiency, and can help drive progress on any number of challenges facing local governments including sustainable economic development, insurance coverage cost-saving, and improving public safety and welfare.
Use these materials to advance this solution in your city:
Memo: BUDGET SUNSHINE ONLINE
Due to the economic conditions of the past decade, municipalities, and particularly cities, have had fewer resources to meet the increasing demands on fundamental services like police and fire, water and sewer, housing and education. Local governments are therefore faced with the ongoing challenge of having to do more with less, and need to find new, innovative ways of delivering these indispensable services.
Economic research has demonstrated that a proven approach to inviting innovation in cost-savings is making public data freely available in open, standardized formats. This increases citizen participation, information sharing, government transparency, accountability, and efficiency. The most effective way of providing this data to the public is to make it available online in accessible, searchable, machine-readable formats, which facilitates constructive use of the information.
The World Bank has indicated that opening data can create growth and job creation, improved public services, and more transparent and accountable government. Forward-thinking cities across the country are embracing the idea of “open data,” and coming up with new ways to ensure data is available to be used, reused, and shared freely, for both internal and public use. The McKinsey Global Institute has reported that open data can generate over $3 trillion per year in key areas of the global economy, including education, health and transportation.
Open data can break down information gaps and allow the sharing of best practices, and can replace traditional decision-making with data-driven ones. Many states, cities and counties in the U.S. have developed open data initiatives. The Sunlight Foundation highlights as one of its highest priorities, ensuring public access to accurate, timely, and complete data about the money spent by government.
By focusing initially on public access to municipal financial data, a city can promote civic innovation and cost-effectiveness of government services. This will build trust and collaboration between government officials and citizens, and can help drive progress on any number of challenges facing local governments including sustainable economic development, insurance coverage cost-saving, and improving public safety and welfare. The Citizens Campaign has worked with former South Orange Mayor Alex Torpey, to develop a model ordinance that can be implemented as a substantial first-phase solution to a broader open data policy, or as a standalone policy promoting transparency and efficiency in local government finance. In either capacity, the model ordinance will help address fiscal challenges and drive economic progress, and can be adopted by municipalities across the country.
An ordinance to require that government records and information be made available in transparent and accessible formats
WHEREAS, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 47:1A-5(e) of the “Open Public Records Act”, certain information is to be released to the public immediately upon request, including budgets, bills, vouchers, contracts, including collective negotiations agreements and individual employment contracts, and public employee salary and overtime information; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:4-10, every municipality which maintains a website must post their annual budget online, as well as the immediately preceding three budget years and a user-friendly budget summary; and
WHEREAS, the (Municipality) has established a website, registered with the domain name of (Website URL) to post municipal information and documents; and
WHEREAS, the governing body of (Municipality) is committed to open (Municipality’s) governance, to full citizen participation, and the ability to ensure accountability; and
WHEREAS, making certain government records accessible and available online in a machine-readable format will make the operation of (Municipality) government more transparent, effective, and accountable to the public; and
WHEREAS, such availability of government records will increase public participation and permit the public to assist in identifying innovative governmental solutions to promote social progress and economic opportunities; and
WHEREAS, it is in the best interest of (Municipality) to make municipal information available online so as to streamline intra-governmental and inter-governmental communication and interoperability, and use new technologies to increase government efficiency; and
WHEREAS, these objectives all work towards the overarching goal of ensuring that taxpayer dollars are used efficiently and (Municipality) government fosters public trust; and
BE IT ORDAINED, by (Municipality), a municipal corporation of the State of New Jersey, located in (name of county) thereof, as follows:
Section 1. Summary
This is an ordinance that requires (Municipality) to make available on the municipal web site categories of public information about municipal expenditures and actions that enable citizens to better understand and participate in municipal affairs. This data is to be provided in accessible machine- readable data formats to best facilitate members of the public constructively using and commenting on the information provided. This ordinance also requires the storage of government records in a format that is searchable, indexable and accessible, allowing easy future use or manipulation. This ordinance furthermore provides protections for citizens privacy when corresponding with the government via email and social media platforms, provides guidance for more transparently filing Open Public Records Act Requests, and oversight, enforcement and reporting mechanisms to ensure the spirit of the law is carried out through this law’s implementation.
Section 2. Purpose.
In order to increase government efficiency, transparency, accountability and innovation, and to foster an informed and engaged public in municipal affairs, this ordinance specifies that certain municipal public records are available online in a machine-readable, structured format, without restrictions as to access or reuse, that can be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, sorted, searched, and reused for both internal and public uses.
Section 3. Definitions
Machine Readable: An open document format that can be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, sorted, searched, and reused by commonly used web search or other applications and commonly used open format software that facilitate access to, and the reuse of, such information. This can include human readable documents such as .pdf and .doc that are structured for machine-use (for example, scanned and OCR’d properly) or purely machine-readable formats, such as RDF, XML or JSON.
Government Records: All municipal documents, records, materials, data or other information that the public is entitled to access for inspection, copying, or examination, under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act (New Jersey Open Public Records Act, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 et. seq.), including Open Public Records Act requests and responses, and regardless of the physical form, characteristics, or means of transmission, and which has been made, maintained, received, or kept on file under law or ordinance, or in the course of official business by Municipality, including by any officer, commission, agency or authority thereof.
Section 4. Provisions
A. Within one year of the adoption of this ordinance, the following Government Records of the current year and all prospective years shall be publicly listed on a website or web page, open data portal or some other such publicly available and searchable web-based repository:
i. Contact information for, or a method by which to easily contact, elected and appointed officials, municipal administrator or manager, municipal clerk, police chief, municipal court administrator and all department heads; and
ii. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:4-10, the adopted budget, and the adopted budgets of the immediately preceding three budget years; and
iii. Within one week of becoming a public record:
a. Governing body agendas, minutes, resolutions, ordinances, mayoral proclamations and executive orders; and
b. Any resolutions authorizing change orders for any contracts, and any resolutions authorizing payments beyond “not to exceed” provisions in resolutions retaining professionals; and
c. All notification(s) and submission requests for solicitation of bids and vendor responses to same, RFQs and RFPs; and
iv. Those municipal contracts which fall either below the bid threshold or within the exceptions to public bidding, which, in the aggregate, exceed $5,000 in a contract year; and
v. Most recent annual financial statement and audits; and
vi. Employee salaries with overtime specified by each employee and in the aggregate, updated annually; and
vii. Any final and accepted report, study, presentation or other work product produced by any third party for the municipal government
viii. All completed New Jersey Open Public Records Act (New Jersey Open Public Records Act, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 et. seq.) responses and their corresponding requests; and
ix. Any publicly available documents related to, or consisting of information about emergency preparedness and response plans, reports or analysis.
B. Within two years of the adoption of this ordinance, Government Records referenced in Section 4A (i-x), shall be created, stored, indexed and maintained in a Machine-Readable format.
C. Within five years, all Government Records, except for those Government Records dating back more than six years, shall be posted on the municipal website in a Machine-Readable format.
D. Nothing in this Ordinance shall be deemed to prohibit (Municipality), its officers, commissions, agencies or other authorities, from voluntarily posting on the municipal website in Machine-Readable format, any Government Records, regardless of date of creation or any other circumstances.
E. In the event that compliance with part or all of the requirements of Section 4(A)-(C) is impracticable, the governing body may waive part or all of the requirements by a two-thirds vote of the full council together with publication of a resolution setting forth with specificity the reasons such waiver is required.
F. When a member of the public files an Open Public Record Act request with the Municipality, the request shall be completed with the use of information in a machine-readable format when possible, even if the requester did not specifically request it.
i. Furthermore, the request will be made available publicly on the municipal website, and shall contain the following data points:
a. Date request submitted b. Number count of the request c. Name of requester d. Number of hours undertaken to fulfill request e. Date response was given f. Response provided
ii. The response shall be provided with the following stipulations:
a. Following all applicable OPRA and any other state or legal regulations
b. All responsive records organized into one machine-readable record, unless due to the size, cost or type of record this is infeasible. If provided in this format, a cover sheet shall also be provided
c. An index of all records contained in the response shall be provided
d. Page numbers shall be watermarked on each page
e. A link to the URL of where all OPRA responses can be found shall be included on every page
G. All correspondence with any member of the public from any email address originating from a municipal address shall include a disclaimer identifying the correspondence as public, to protect the privacy of, and fully inform members of the public as to the public document provisions of email correspondence with public officials per the New Jersey Open Public Records Act, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 et. seq.
H. All social media accounts and use of other internet platforms and correspondence will include a disclaimer identifying the correspondence as public per the New Jersey Open Public Records Act, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 et. seq. when possible to protect the privacy of the user.
I. Nothing in this ordinance shall be seen to compel or authorize the disclosure of privileged information, law enforcement or public safety information, personal information, or information the disclosure of which is prohibited by law.
Section 5. Oversight and Implementation
A. All digital records will be maintained by the office of the municipal clerk and/or the appropriately designated custodian of records pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 40A:9-133.
B. Within sixty (60) days of the passage of this ordinance, the municipal administration will promulgate operating procedures to ensure the cost-effective, efficient and transparent implementation of this law, and will post such information publicly.
C. Once per year, or more as directed by the governing body, the Mayor or his designee shall provide a written report on the status of the implementation of this ordinance.
Section 6. Repealer:
All ordinances or parts of ordinances inconsistent with the provisions of this ordinance are hereby repealed.
Section 7. Effective Date
This ordinance shall take effect after final publication as required by law.