Every citizen of New York State is a resident of some local government unit, and usually of several overlapping governmental units (county, city, town, village, school district, fire district). While the federal and State governments get a lot of attention for the laws, regulations, and policy decisions they make, it is local governments that administer programs and services that usually have the most direct day-to-day impact on people’s lives. Local governments are responsible for public education, police, fire protection, road maintenance, parks, health programs, and much more. One good way to get a picture of your local government’s activities is to look at its budget.
A local government budget can be difficult to understand for the average citizen who may not have a background in accounting or a familiarity with budgeting. However, with some basic knowledge about what budgets contain, why they are important, and how they are presented, every citizen of every local community in New York State should be able to decipher the budget document.
With the resources in this guide, interested citizens should be able to understand what is contained in their local government’s budget. This in turn will allow citizens to understand the challenges facing their local government, what it is doing to manage them, and – perhaps most importantly – what it is doing with their tax dollars. The guide is intended to enable concerned citizens to evaluate how well the budget has been formulated.