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A new state and local public budget transparency initiative, mandated by the North Carolina legislature last year, is about to face its first major test.

The state budget, adopted in September 2015, included a line item on “governmental budget transparency/expenditures online.” It specified that, by April 1, state and local government bodies should work with the state’s chief information officer to make vast amounts of public spending data readily available.

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According to Melanie Jennings, a spokesperson for the North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management, the initiative is still “scheduled to go live on April first, with additional content and enhancements to be rolled out and phased in in the months to come.”

The OSBM was allotted $814,000 in state funds to get the project going.

That said, the plan will likely initially fall short of its ambitious goals, which include posting online all “information on receipts and expenditures from and to all sources,” as the state budget legislation put it.

“We are making good progress, but as can be expected with old, disparate systems, there are challenges in pulling together the data,” Jennings said in an email to Carolina Public Press.

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Initially, she added, a state website will “include interactive charts and tables for viewing the state’s budget, actual expenditures and payments at various levels of detail.”

The legislation mandating the online budget transparency directed local government bodies to do likewise by April 1, but Jennings said that level of detail would be “included in a future phase” of the project.

Jon Elliston

Jon Elliston is the lead contributing open government reporter at Carolina Public Press. Contact him at jelliston@carolinapublicpress.org.

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