The Mandate: New York State law is replete with provisions mandating that local governments publish an official notice in a local newspaper.1 These onerous requirements necessitate the expenditure of municipal moneys whenever a local government proposes to enact a local law, puts out a request for bids or holds a public hearing, among other municipal actions.
The Cost: A conservative estimate reveals that local governments across the state are spending millions of dollars every year publishing legal notices. The cost of the publication requirement is compounded by the fact that many of New York's local governments are only serviced by a weekly newspaper. Weekly newspapers present serious challenges to local governments acting efficiently when they need to quickly enter into a purchase or public works contract, as the deadline for submissions to weekly newspapers can result in a two-week lag before the notice is actually published, thereby delaying the opening of bids. The foregoing demonstrates that the impacts of this mandate are more than financial, as delays in posting caused by the presence of a weekly newspaper, to a limited geographic area, do nothing to ensure that a local government will obtain the best services for the most favorable rate available.
The Solution: Requiring local governments to pay to advertise official notices in a local newspaper is incredibly antiquated, particularly in the age of the Internet. State law should be amended to allow local governments to satisfy official notice requirements by posting the notices on the municipality's website continuously for a period of days, thereby allowing local government officials to notify interested parties of important information in a more timely, efficient and cost effective manner.
· This solution will drastically reduce the costs currently associated with public notice requirements, as local governments would no longer have to pay advertising fees associated with publishing in local newspapers. Moreover, if newspapers believe that the subject of the notification is newsworthy, they can still report on the matter.
· Municipalities would be permitted to make procurements in a more timely fashion, inasmuch as local governments would not be forced to wait for a weekly newspaper to publish a notice.
· Internet posting would allow local governments to more effectively communicate with their constituents, stakeholders, and interested parties. Individuals would be able to check municipal websites for notices 24 hours a day, seven days a week, not just once a day by sifting through the small print of newspaper legal notices. Moreover, numerous online services could be used to allow individuals to automatically receive notification of the municipal notices as soon as they are posted.
· Internet publication requirements for procurement contracts would ensure that the notice will be seen by a wider spectrum of potential bidders, thereby guaranteeing that a municipality will enter into the most favorable contract possible.
· The significant reduction in cost will enable municipalities to use their moneys in a more productive, cost efficient manner, which benefits local governments, their taxpayers and New York State as a whole.
1. See General Municipal Law § 103 (2); Public Officers Law § 104.