Web site designed to help NY’ers see how governments spend their tax dollars

Justin Head

Ever wonder where you tax dollars go? State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli wants New York citizens to know they have a Web site that can help explain who is spending what.

DiNapoli has added on to an existing Web site called Open Book New York to allow the public access to basic information about how the government spends money. The available data shows revenue and expense information classified by city, county, fire district, school, village and town between the years 1996 to 2006.

The Web site can be accessed by going to

“It’s never been easy for taxpayers to follow where their tax dollars go,” DiNapoli said on his Website. “Open Book New York is changing that. In today’s economy, families are watching every dime in their household budgets. This easy to use Website lets New Yorkers do the same with their state budget.”

The site has spending for more 100 state agencies and 60,000 state contracts and has the capability to convert the information into bar or pie graphs. A statement by Dinapoli claims the site shows how 3,100 governments across New York spend their money and that state contract data is updated nightly and state spending data is updated quarterly. 

“I think it is important. Any taxing district that does a good job should be happy to have their figures on a Website,” said Hornellsville Town Supervisor Ken Isaman. Isaman said last week he had not checked the Website out yet, but is interested to see what it contains. Isaman said if the information is accurate he would use the Website to check out other municipalities and review how they budget themselves.

“If we had a budget problem that needed to be corrected, I could look at it, and then call up another municipality and say, ‘Hey what did you guys do about this?’” Isaman said that even though municipal meetings are open to the public, citizens rarely supervise or partake in governmental affairs. He welcomed the idea of taking input from the public and said that people often have useful ideas. 

“We have a number of people in the town that know budgets and they understand fiscal problems,” said Isaman, adding, “There is a vast network of citizens that could be called upon to solve budget problems.”

Hornell Mayor Shawn Hogan was not as positive about the Website as Isaman. He had used the Website but was not impressed. He questioned the simplicity and accuracy of it.

“I don’t know where they get some of their figures from,” said Hogan, adding, “We have to have a balanced budget and some of these figures don’t add up.”

Hogan said it is the government’s responsibility to make itself accessible and accountable, but thinks the Web site could cause more questions than it answers.

“In a rush for transparency they are gonna cause confusion,” said Hogan, adding,”People are not going to know what they are looking at.”

Hogan said the Web site does not offer any significant break down of the figures and that the City of Hornell’s Web site was more specific and provides explanations.

Hogan thought that accountability was at its strongest at the local level and chided bigger government bodies for not being as open.

“They try to make transparency an issue for local government and that is where the transparency is. They need to apply this to Albany and Washington’s end,” said Hogan.

The Evening Tribune