September 16, 2019 | 62° F

Pending bill to create budget transparency

New Jersey residents may soon be able to view the budget of any public university in the state, pending a bill’s passage in the N.J. legislature.

The bill would require “a public institution of higher education [to] post by Aug. 15 of each year its budget for the upcoming academic year,” according to the bill.

“The goal of this bill is to increase transparency between public universities and the citizens of New Jersey,” said Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-19.

At a time when tuition increases are present, taxpayers will be able to see where their tax dollars are going, he said.

“Parents are curious in how their money is being spent,” Vitale said. “Now public university administrators will be under a microscope.”

Municipalities have recently been asked to put their budgets online, so he said the state legislature is working to catching up with itself.

The N.J. Assembly Higher Education Committee passed the bill last week and it will go into another vote in the Senate Education Committee.

If it passes the latter committee, it will then be voted on in the New Jersey State Assembly, Vitale said.

Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, D-6, Assemblyman Craig Coughlin, D-19, and Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-7, sponsored the bill, which states that institutions must also post a summary document outlining — in a user-friendly manner — the institution’s major sources of revenue, according to the bill.

“The goal of this piece of legislation mirrors the goal of similar legislation championed by Assemblywoman Lampitt, requiring local budgets to be put online,” said Brian McGinnis, Lampitt’s communications director.

By ensuring that institutions of higher education post user-friendly formats of their budgets on the Internet, the bill intends to help ensure transparency and accountability for the taxpayers who support institutions of higher learning, McGinnis said.

If passed by the state legislature, the acts will take effect immediately, according to the bill’s conditions.

University spokesman E.J. Miranda said the University has no problem with the proposed bill.

The University posts its budget online within the Office of Institutional Research and Academic Planning’s annual “Rutgers Fact Book.”

The Fact Book uses as its source the Division of University Accounting, which performs all general accounting functions required by the University on all its campuses, according to the Fact Book website.

Information must be posted in a prominent and easily accessible site, according to the bill. Currently, the OIRAP website is not prominently displayed on the University’s homepage.

Nino Azrumelashvili, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said the bill is essential to providing financial transparency.

“I think this is really important,” Azrumelashvili said. “It would give students, as well as taxpayers, an opportunity to see how their money is being spent.”

Everyone should be able to see where the money is used, said Brian Bokserman, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.

“We need to know where the University money is going because that is also our money,” Bokserman said. “With corruption being what it is, we need to know.”

Carisa Sousa, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said leaders and public university administrators are accountable for how they use the budget.

“It keeps a measure of accountability unto our leaders,” Sousa said. “We can see where cuts are needed or where we can improve. It is our money after all.”

By Richard Conte

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