It’s not news that these days the internet is the first place most people go for information. It’s surprising, however, that while independent authorities in the state are required to have a website, municipal governments are not.
Some New Jersey municipalities still don’t have a website, and for many that do, their websites lack transparency and basic resources even though it could reduce their state aid. You can read more about it in this 11/23/2014 Asbury Park Press article that highlights some of the best and worst municipal websites. That article fails to mention which municipalities don’t have a website, however.
The law requiring independent authorities to maintain a website – and to post basic information and materials – took effect in February 2013 and was passed in response to a February 2011 report issued by the state comptroller’s office about the lack of transparency at New Jersey’s myriad of authorities. The comptroller’s office identified 587 local agencies in the state that are independent fiscal authorities in control of public funds, and at that time, 36% of them had no website. Read more in this January 2012 news article about the law’s passage.
Given the amount of tax dollars controlled by local governments and a tendency to share only what they have to, it’s time there was a legal standard spelling out what information municipalities should make readily available online.