ATLANTA - Local governments in Georgia, including the city of Buford, are ignoring a new law requiring they make public an electronic copy of their annual budgets in a move meant to increase transparency.
The law requires that local Georgia governments with a budget of more than $1 million submit an electronic copy of the budgets to the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia, which publishes them online. Just 33 percent of cities, 57 percent of counties and 83 percent of school districts had submitted their budgets by Friday.
Governments must submit their spending plans 30 days after approving them, which typically happens at the end of the fiscal year in June.
Some supporters of the law told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they want it changed.
"It's a toothless law that probably needs to be adjusted," said Jack Starver, chairman for the Northwest Georgia 9-12 project, an organization with roots in the tea party. "If these guys are lighting cigars with $5 bills, we should probably know that."
Rep. Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, who backed the law, said the goal was to make it easier for taxpayers to find budgets. He said he would consider trying to add penalties to the law if local governments do not comply.
"We went out of our way to make this not hard," he said. "These cities, counties and school districts are doing a disservice to their own constituents. In the interest of open government, they need to step forward."
Officials with the Georgia Municipal Association, which represents hundreds of local governments in the state, said UGA may be underestimating how many local governments are exempt from the new reporting requirements. The association also said that smaller cities with overworked employees might simply overlook it.
DeKalb County, the cities of Buford, College Park, East Point and Lawrenceville and the Clayton County school district are among the local governments that still have not submitted their budgets for electronic publication.
"We erred," said Burke Brennan, a DeKalb County spokesman. "We're disappointed that we missed this one but we're going to make it right."