Legislature contemplates new rules on budget transparency, vacancies

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NEW CITY – After 2014’s divisive budget season, the County Legislature might soon consider adding new requirements to the county budget process.

According to sources in the Legislature, two local laws might soon be floated before the body that would add new features to public budget disclosures and extend legislative authority to new county hires during budget season.

The first proposal, dubbed the Adopted Budget Transparency Act, would include both legislative changes to initial budget proposals and executive changes included after vetoes. Specifically, the report of the Budget & Finance Committee and the county executive’s veto messages would be included with final versions of the budget posted online and made available in print.

The second proposal, which has yet to be named, would require legislative approval before appointments can be made to fill vacant positions between the October 1 deadline for the executive’s initial proposal and the December 20 deadline for a final veto.

According to Legislative Chairman Alden Wolfe, the transparency measures are meant to smooth over disclosure inconsistencies he stated were present in 2014 when the veto message was included but legislative changes were not.

“For anyone in the public that is interested in the story of how we adopt our budget, there’s certain things that are very important,” Wolfe explained. “Clearly, the executive’s budget message and his justification for his proposal. Our report of the Budget & Finance Committee is our story, the justification of the changes that we make to the budget.”

Wolfe went on to explain the purpose of the vacancy proposal was to avoid confusion over vacancies filled during budget review which might become redundant as the budget takes shape.

“The executive’s decision to fill positions during the course of our budget review means that in many ways, our final budget is a moving target,” Wolfe said. “It’s entirely possible that we can cut a position in our budget that has just been filled.

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