Welcome to New York" sign along northbound New York State Route 210 just after entering Warwick, Orange County, New York from West Milford Township, Passaic County, New Jersey by Famartin is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne is building the standard for conservative reforms in local government in the New York county.

Last month, the county executive’s office released three model policies aimed at increasing transparency measures for the legislative process and to encourage more direct citizen involvement in the government process. These policies are the Taxpayer Transparency Act, the Local Taxpayer Protection Act, and the Savings Incentive Partnership Program.

The Taxpayer Transparency Act’s goal is to make access to the legislative process as simple as possible. This program calls for the creation of online budget database websites and legislative meeting livestream services. The online budget database websites gives citizens the opportunity to access details regarding the collection and use of their taxes, including which projects tax dollars fund and which corporations/individuals receive this money. The livestreaming of legislative meetings is intended to keep the public actively engaged in Legislative sessions, so citizens can directly understand how representatives work on their behalf.

The Local Taxpayer Protection Act’s mission is to more directly involve the public in the budget process. It increases transparency efforts through general public accessibility to budget hearings and budget processes. Accessibility includes sitting in on in-person legislative meetings and having access to livestreams of meetings. Constituents have the chance to voice any questions or concerns regarding budget process discussions to their representatives before any final decisions are made. This act also seeks to require a two-thirds majority Legislature vote when increasing property tax levies.

The Savings Incentive Partnership Program is designed to improve civil engagement amongst employed citizens – excluding those already serving as elected officials, supervisors, or in management-level positions – in the county. This program incentivizes employees to submit proposals and ideas associated with increased productivity, conservation of resources, and/or reduction of costs associated with the county. The goal is to utilize the ideas and opinions of constituents as means of continuing to better the community. 

With these proposals, Putnam County is taking strides towards more government transparency, and doing so in a way that other local governments across the country can emulate. Each of these programs serve as excellent resources for achieving a government that works with its citizens, rather than a government that dominates constituent voices. These programs are designed to hold elected officials accountable for their actions and keep legislative power in check through more taxpayer engagement.