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While the state level government should produce open datasets for many categories like company registers, land registers and so on... what are here some datasets that are specific to smaller towns or villages?

One that comes to my mind is publishing their spending.

Can someone:

  • add some more examples what data are usually specific to regional level?
  • point me to some real-world examples?

The municipality of those towns are usually very small (and usually no IT experts). So what are some strategies (guidelines) how they should gather, manage and publish their data?

  • I would recommend going over what is written in this post. While some grammatical errors are usually forgiven by the reader in most cases, I personally can't understand what specifically is being asked. – Kotebiya Jul 17 '14 at 2:45
  • @Kotebiya sorry, my english is not my native. I'm asking about "what type of data should by published by an small town". – jm666 Jul 17 '14 at 5:41
  • @jm666 - here is one source from an open data portal vendor (Socrata) titled "Somerville, MA: Small Town. Big Vision: How a Small Town Innovates at the Pace of a Large City." socrata.com/video-case-study-somerville-ma-test [full disclosure: my company is a Socrata partner] – Mark Silverberg Jul 17 '14 at 11:58
  • @MarkSilverberg : Bah ... Somerville's not small ... they have a population of 75k. That's a huge town, heading towards a small city. Eagle Harbor, MD is a small town (population 63). (and I'm the former Town Commissioner for Upper Marlboro, MD ... population ~640) – Joe Jul 17 '14 at 14:41
  • @jm666 : I answered the question a minute ago, and you marked it as the accepted answer? Please don't do that ... there might be other people who have better answers to provide. – Joe Jul 17 '14 at 14:59
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I was a Town Commissioner for 6 years of a small town (population ~640, but we're also the County Seat, so our daytime population is over 3000; exact number dependent upon how many people have jury duty that day)

Due to the limited staffing, I'd recommend that small municipalities only collect the data that they're being asked for or obligated to provide, and not attempt to guess what data might be useful to people in advance.

In our monthly newsletter, we list crime statistics, breaking them down by general category and if they're in a residential area or downtown. Originally, we just broke them down by type, but then someone started asking if it was downtown or in one of the neighborhoods.

We report our income and expenditures on a monthly basis, based on the categories that are defined in our detailed budget, along with the status of all cash accounts (amount in the accounts and status of collatoralization agreements).

Due to our small size, we've had to take a number of measures to mask some data. For example, when we moved towards being self-insured for health insurance, we consolidated line items that had been in each of the departments. The reason being that we had a department with only one full time person, and so if any money came out of that item, we felt it may leak too much information about that employee's health. We also have each employee as a separate line item, so it's possible for anyone looking at the budget to determine an employee's pay. It's doubtful that a larger municipalities would have these issues to be concerned with.

  • Thank you for the nice answer. One additional question. You said: only collect the data that they're being asked for or obligated to provide. Can I check somewhere what datasets are usually obligated to provide (at town level)? With other words, guessing that the obligation is different from country to country - so, is possible somewhere to check a list of obligated town datasets (e.g. data what must be published from law) per country? If this should be an separate question, tell me and I will create a new. – jm666 Jul 17 '14 at 15:10
  • @jm666 : either stuff that they're required to produce by law (eg, state laws covering financial information, employment, records retention, etc.) or through agreements with other organizations (eg, by accepting a grant, they may have to produce records of work done for that grant; they may also end up collecting data as part of the process to apply for the grant) – Joe Jul 17 '14 at 18:31
  • Giving up. I'm probably can't express myslef more precisely as list of obligated town datasets (e.g. data what must be published by law). Looking for a LIST ;) :) Thankx anyway. ;) – jm666 Jul 17 '14 at 18:42
  • @jm666 : it's not that simple. State and county laws may have requirements, but have exemptions based on size of town or expenditures (we never allocate more than $1mil in a fiscal year, as that triggers extra requirements from the state). Sources of income affect requirements -- for example, if we have a 'disaster' condition, we capture more data because we need it to try to get re-imbursed by FEMA -- odometer readings, number of people per plow, etc. – Joe Jul 17 '14 at 20:43
  • @jm666 : if you want to try to build a list, contact state archives -- at least in Maryland, we're required to file a 'records retention policy', which breaks down what types of records we generate, and what are rules are for keeping them (eg, individual ballots are destroyed after (x) months, while the certified results of the election are kept forever) – Joe Jul 17 '14 at 20:49

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