Government

In South Orange, Technology Making Government More Transparent, Accessible

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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ -- New technology and innovative ways for the village to interact with residents highlighted Village President Alex Torpey’s State of the Village address Monday night.

A new emergency notification system, Everbridge, is being implemented to assist the village during emergencies. This system will allow the village to send out information and also to receive instant feedback back from residents, along with their location.  

“Everbridge is one of the best, most respected emergency notification system in the country,” Torpey said.

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In addition to the the new system, the village will put a tool online in the coming weeks that will allow residents to get a more complete look at how taxpayer money is being spent. This tool will break down every line of the budget to the level of detail that the government uses.

“This is without a doubt the most transparent municipal budget in the state of New Jersey,” Torpey said.

In addition, residents will be able to comment or make suggestions about what can be done to improve the budget.

Further changes include switching the village’s email servers to Google apps from the current in-house servers, which were prone to crashing. A redesigned website is also coming that will not only make the site easier to navigate, but also include a search bar that will come up with suggestions, which Torpey said is similar to how Google works.

In terms of the budget, the village kept the tax increase under the 2 percent mandate, raising taxes 1.6 percent or roughly $70 per household, according to Torpey. The village is also restructuring its debt and locking in interest rates to save over $4 million over time.

“It’s not just thinking about our expenses that are coming in and out every year, but what is it going to look like five, 10, 20 years from now,” Torpey said.

Crime in South Orange has continued to decrease over the past few years, and Torpey credited the drop to the work of the police force patrolling the town and to residents being more aware.

Torpey finished his speech by stating he wanted to create a place where people can submit their ideas that will then be able to lead to solutions.

The reporter is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.

 

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