The new website launched by the town of Somerset, at somersetvisualbudget.org, allows taxpayers to see exactly how their tax dollars are being spent. It allows residents to plug in the amount of taxes they paid last year and see a basic financial summary and a “high level data story” about where their money is going.
With that information, they can see how much of their own tax dollars went to every department and expense over the course of six years. They can even see revenues during a similar period, as well as trends over those years with dollar and percentage changes. Modern technology like this can help people better understand the way their community budgets and how their tax dollars are being spent.
That, in turn, can help foster smarter policy and budgeting decisions. This is especially important for towns like Somerset that use the old Town Meeting style of government, where residents vote directly on spending matters, but may not really understand what they’re voting on and how it applies to their own household and community.
This innovation represents a great way to increase government transparency and help put taxpayers in the driver’s seat when it comes to understanding a very complicated issue like municipal finance.
– The Herald News, May. 18, 2015
Residents who want to know how their tax money is being spent can get very detailed information, right down to the dollar, and they can do it on their own computer now.
The town has set up a new program on somersetvisualbudget.org. In that program, property owners can punch in how much their tax bills are and then find out how much of their bill goes to each department of expense the town makes, such as schools, police department, snow and ice removal, etc.
“It’s pretty easy to run,” said Town Finance Director Joseph Bolton who had a company set up the program for the town. “It’s got all kinds of flexibility.”
– South Coast Today, May. 21, 2015