One-quarter of the 32 villages on the North Shore do not have a full current budget available on their websites, a survey by Blank Slate Media has found.
Twenty-four villages have their full budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year available on their website, one has a partial budget uploaded, which includes summaries, and seven villages have no current budget posted on their websites.
The seven villages that don’t have budgets available for the fiscal year 2021-22 include Great Neck Estates, Kensington, Saddle Rock, Williston Park, North Hills, Mineola and Roslyn.
Of those seven, Mineola and Roslyn have budgets available for the previous fiscal years on their website, while Williston Park, North Hills, Great Neck Estates, Kensington and Saddle Rock do not. Great Neck Plaza has a brief summary of the 2020-21 budget online.
When requested, the administrative staff of Williston Park, Great Neck Estates, Great Neck Plaza, Kensington and Saddle Rock emailed a full budget the same day as the request, within a few hours.
Great Neck Estates village Administrator Kathleen Santelli said the budgets are posted online before their adoption for the public to view. While no longer posted, they are always available upon request, she said.
“The budget was posted during the tentative & adopted process and we do generally attach the monthly financials as well as other department reports with the Board agenda and are always available upon request,” Santelli said in an email.
North Hills sent its 2021-2022 budget after 24 hours and 5 minutes. North Hills Village Administrator Marianne Lobaccaro expressed similar sentiments to Santelli in a statement to Blank Slate Media.
“The Village Complies with all legal requirements regarding website postings,” Lobaccaro said. “Copies of the Village Budget are available at Village Hall and by request. For this year’s budget cycle, the Village will be required to post the tentative budget in advance of the budget hearing.”
Great Neck Plaza Village Administrator Pat O’Byrne said the village is currently in the process of updating its website and plans for the full budget and a brief summary of it to be posted online. O’Byrne said the village’s 2022-23 budget, which will be discussed during future meetings, is also online for residents to access on the village website.
Officials from other villages whose full 2021-22 budgets were not posted online did not immediately respond for comment.
Kristin O’Neill, the associate director for the state’s Committee on Open Government, said New York’s Freedom of Information Law does not require villages or local municipalities to have their budgets online.
“There’s nothing in the Freedom of Information Law or the Open Meetings Law that requires that a budget be posted on an agency website,” O’Neil said in a phone interview. “The Freedom of Information Law is this statute in New York that governs access to records. That’s what making a request for records is and that’s why you have the right to request those records.”
Several local municipalities said that whenever the tentative budget is approved it is promptly uploaded to their websites for public view. Both the Town of North Hempstead and Nassau County also have their budgets posted online for the public to view.
Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey touted the importance of government transparency and showing residents what their taxes are being used on whenever they desire to look.
“These documents serve as blueprints for the town government, showing how resident tax dollars are being utilized and detailing the important priorities and initiatives that we’re going to be voting on,” Lurvey said in a phone interview. “It’s important that the public be able to access it without putting any hurdles in the way and having them ask for it.”
“We’ve been uploading them online for the last 10 years at least,” said Michael Koblenz, mayor of East Hills.
Representatives from the Village of Bellerose and Roslyn Estates shared a similar sentiment, saying that the budgets are published when they are passed at the Board of Trustees meeting.
Ease of access among websites differed for villages that had their budgets available. There was a mix of budgets that were available on the homepage and labeled as such, and there were budgets that were under different tabs/pages relating to “taxes” or “documents.”
For East Williston, the only way to access the budget is by searching it through the website’s search bar, where the current fiscal year’s documents will appear in the top result. None of the links that are provided on the homepage, which include “I Want To”, “Residents” and “Government” among others, lead to the budget.
On Roslyn Harbor’s website, there is a dropdown tab called “Resident Information.” The menu that is shown has “2020-2021 Village Budget” however the current fiscal year’s budget is shown only if you click on the “Notices” tab.
For South Floral Park, the only way to access the budget is by searching it through the website’s search bar, where the 2021-2022 village budget will appear among the results.