North Hempstead's government website next month will become the first on Long Island to feature an interactive financial analysis program that allows the public to analyze, share and compare detailed town budget data.
The software was purchased from the California-based company OpenGov, as part of a nearly $23,000 redesign of northhempsteadny.gov, the town's website. It will make information available that had been provided only to town employees and the media or that was kept in text-heavy documents.
Users will be able to see or calculate a variety of financial information from how much snow removal has cost over the years to how much overtime town departments generated. Program users can also crunch their own numbers to create graphs and reports on any financial data they want to study.
Residents might want to find out how much property taxes contribute to the budget or how their neighbors' property taxes compare to theirs, officials said. A civic organization might want to track how expenditures for senior services have increased or decreased from year to year.
"You won't always have to pick up a phone or show up [at town hall] to get information," said Steven Pollack, North Hempstead's director of governmental research. "It also helps us internally -- employees will be asking fewer questions of each other."
Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said the service reflects her administration's focus on transparency in government.
"This takes it to the next step," Bosworth said in an interview last week at Town Hall. "We'll have all of our financial information on our website. People can ask questions and get answers. There are no secrets. We want people to know what we're doing."
Robert Freeman, executive director of the Albany-based New York State Committee on Open Government, which advocates transparency, said providing the public with more detailed government operations information on the Internet is a growing trend as people become used to having information immediately available online.
OpenGov has developed similar programs for more than 250 governments in 36 states. Governments using the OpenGov software include those in St. Petersburg, Florida; New Haven, Connecticut; Cleveland Heights, Ohio; Minneapolis; and Sausalito and Ventura County in California.
Freeman said providing as much information as possible online is a more efficient way of handling government business and can save money.
"Anything that can be found online means one less request that has to be made and one less request that has to be answered," Freeman said. "Life is made easier at both ends."
A link on the town's home page will direct users to the OpenGov program and a video showing how to use it.
"It's very user friendly," Pollack said. "You'll type in whatever you want, just like Google."
The fully redesigned town website is expected to be launched by late summer.
Town spokeswoman Carole Trottere said the new website will be more "aesthetically pleasing," provide more information on the main page and reduce the number of clicks needed for inquiries.