THERE'S a lot of data on how City Council spends taxpayers' money. But it's not always easy to get your hands on it.

The city's 17-member legislative body keeps its spending and financial priorities veiled in secrecy. It doesn't hold public hearings on its $15 million budget and provides no data for the city's annual phonebook-size budget-detail report.

Zack Stalberg, president of the watchdog group Committee of Seventy, said Council members should undergo more budget scrutiny.

"It's outrageous that they do not provide the same amount of budget detail that they require of every other city department or even that of the school district," Stalberg said. "We think this is wrong that they don't have some kind of public discussion on how they spend their money."

Council's defense is that it gets a small amount of money in the context of the city's $3.5 billion budget.

"There's 17 independent elected officials and they represent .04 percent of the budget," said Council's chief accounting officer, Anne Kelly King, who also noted that most of Council's money goes to salaries.

Council President Anna Verna did not respond to a request for comment. She's retiring at the end of the year and a new Council president will be chosen next year.

Will there be greater budget transparency under the next Council leader? The two most likely candidates - Councilman Darrell Clarke and Councilwoman Marian Tasco - did not respond to detailed requests for comment.