I’m excited to share that I’m currently working with a team of civic advocates in Montclair to help grow awareness around NJ’s User Friendly Municipal Budget. On January 26th at 7pm, we’ll be doing a quick but intense dive into Montclair’s local finance, with a teaching about how to navigate the NJ User Friendly Budget. The hope is that, coming out of this webinar, taxpayers feel more confident and empowered to explore local finance using this public document.
I started CivicParent with the spirit of “getting civic” with public finance; we can each learn in, and with, community. It was in this spirit that I wrote a series on the user friendly municipal budget in Summer 2020. The user friendly budget is a fantastic local document that can inform the fiscal landscape of our local community; we each can, and should, feel confident exploring it. This document can begin to help us better understand how local monies are collected and spent.
In the coming weeks I’ll be adding to my original User Friendly Budget series; in effect, this is a “Part II”…but with a focal point now on Montclair. And, as with my original series, I’ll weave in interactive visualizations using statewide datasets, allowing readers to explore other towns or counties.
A final note. I would be remiss not to lift up how this January 26th event came about, because it’s a positive story that models what is possible when we work from the ground up…to learn, in community, together. This past summer, Eileen Birmingham, a Montclair resident, contacted me about my User Friendly Budget series. We chatted a bit over email and then met in person; my two kids and I traveled to Montclair, did a bit of shopping at a terrific local bookstore at Watchung Booksellers, and then met Eileen for lunch on Watchung Avenue. It was my first time in Montclair (aside from a visit a few years ago an open data conference at Montclair State University). In the weeks following our lunch, our conversation continued and Eileen invited more Montclairions into this effort, including fellow residents Nolan Haims and Colleen Dougherty as well as Montclair councilor-at-large, Peter Yacobellis. Councilor Yacobellis is both co-presenting and helping model what is possible when elected leaders collaborate in the civic space: taxpayers can grow empowered by learning in community.
I’m so grateful to be part of this team effort to bring the User Friendly Budget to greater life for more Garden State residents. More to come soon. For now, if you’re interested in attending this webinar, you can register here.