Searchable and Computer Readable Budget Would Open Up $82 Billion in Spending
New York, NY – How New York City spends $82 billion is about to get more transparent, with a city budget that is searchable and computer readable instead of printed or in lengthy PDFs, through legislation from Council Member Ben Kallos that would require the budget to be searchable, posted in open formats, and available for third parties to “build an app for that.”
“New Yorkers should be able to search the city’s budget to see how every penny of their tax dollars is being spent,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, a software developer and open data advocate. “Thank you to Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito and Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, for their partnership in advocacy for an Open Budget.”
The legislation would align New York City data standards for its budget with the Federal standards in the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act) that lead to the adoption of eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) so that any software built for the Federal budget could easily be used with the city’s budget like USAspending.gov.
This legislation follows a request by the City Council in this year’s budget response and previous requests by Council Member Ben Kallos. Excerpted from the City Council Budget response on April 4, 2016 on “Open Budget”:
"The budget is the most important public policy the City regularly makes. As such its transparency is crucial to helping New Yorkers understand how the City spends and raises funding. While OMB publically provides many budget documents, all of them are in portable document format (pdf), making analysis of them cumbersome at best and impossible at worst. Like other agencies, OMB should publish excel files of its documents such as the supporting schedules, departmental estimates, and other applicable documents."
As Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, Council Member Ben Kallos, oversees the Financial Information Services Agency (FISA) which operates software from CGI Group by the name of the Financial Management System (FMS) that manages the city budget. Council Member Ben Kallos identified areas where the budget is only available in print or PDF and found that FMS could easily make the budget information available in open searchable formats online.
The City Council will begin executive budget hearings Friday May 6th.
Int. No. 1176
By Council Member Kallos
A LOCAL LAW
To amend the New York city charter, in relation to requiring budget documents to be provided in certain formats
Be it enacted by the Council as follows:
Section 1. The New York city charter is amended by adding a new section 258.1 to read as follows:
§258.1. Format of documents. Beginning in fiscal year 2018, when the office of management and budget posts a document on its website and such document is one that is required by chapters six, nine or ten of this charter or the financial emergency act for the city of New York or is any other budget-related document agreed by the mayor to be provided to the council, a copy of such document shall be provided on the website of the office of management and budget, to the council, on the single web portal created pursuant to section 23-502 of the administrative code of the city of New York and through an open application program interface in both a human-readable format and non-proprietary format that permits automated processing capable of being downloaded in bulk, including, but not limited to, portable document format, ascii delimited comma separated values, opendocument spreadsheet, Excel binary file format, Microsoft Office open extensible markup language spreadsheet schema and extensible business reporting language or such other standards established by the secretary of the treasury and the director of the office of management and budget pursuant to section 4 of the digital accountability and transparency act of 2014, as enacted by public law 113-101. Such documents subject to this requirement include, but are not limited to, the preliminary budget, and any supporting schedules thereto; the executive budget, and any supporting schedules thereto; the budget message; the council’s alterations to the executive budget, and any supporting schedules thereto; the adopted budget, and any supporting schedules thereto; the departmental estimates; the statement of proposed direct expenditures in each service district; the financial plan, and any modification thereof, and any supporting schedules or supplemental data thereto; the draft ten-year capital strategy; the ten-year capital strategy; any report on staffing levels; and the budget function analysis.
Section 2. This local law takes effect 180 days after it becomes law.