Marietta Times: OhioCheckbook.com a new initiative to show where the money goes
By Peyton Neely
December 29, 2016
LOWER SALEM- In December 2014, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel launched OhioCheckbook.com and for the first time in Ohio history, put state spending information on the Internet. On Wednesday, the villages of Lowell and Lower Salem joined the effort to make government spending more transparent for taxpayers.
Jamie Barker, public affairs liaison for Josh Mandel, visited Lower Salem Wednesday to give a presentation on how the website works for Janet Kidd, treasurer for the Village of Lower Salem.
“This is a completely voluntary partnership between townships, schools, villages, cities and special districts within Ohio,” said Barker. “Everyone is now able to see how tax dollars are being spent.”
OhioCheckbooks.com sets a new standard for government transparency, allowing users to track every cent that is spent within local governments in Ohio. The website even shows all the spending for the entire state of Ohio.
“This is just a way to use modern technology because all these records are public already,” said Barker.
Kidd said she likes the idea of being open with residents within the community.
“If anyone had any questions, there it is,” she said. “Everyone will know exactly what I’m doing.”
According to Barker, there are 3,900 local governments in Ohio. Nearly 1,000 have already committed to OhioCheckbooks.com. In Washington County, the city of Belpre and Liberty Township were the first to join.
“There has been a lot of lost trust in the government over the years and we are just trying to rebuild that trust,” he said. “Everyone does everything online like their taxes, paying bills and more. They should be able to see where their tax dollars are going online.”
The website breaks down every cent that is spent within the cooperating communities and schools. Users can compare each year and can even acquire copies of the checks that circulate through the treasurers.
“After users finish their reports with the United Accounting Network, they can submit them to us and then they’ll go live online,” said Barker.
Lower Salem’s online checkbook includes more than 830 individual transactions that represent more than $79,000 of total spending over the past three years. As for Lowell, their checkbook includes more than 5,000 individual transactions that represent more than $855,000 of total spending since 2013.
In April of 2015, Mandel sent a letter to 18,062 local government and school officials representing 3,962 local governments throughout the state asking them to partner with OhioCheckbooks.com. This partnership is no cost to the local governments. As of Monday there have been more than 683,000 total searches, according to Mandel.
“We just want to bring trust back into government spending and this will continue to do so,” said Barker.
At a glance
¯The website OhioCheckbooks.com launched in September 2015.
¯The website gives anyone access to state and local spending in Ohio.
¯So far in Washington County the City of Belpre and Liberty Township spending is available online.
¯As of Wednesday, Lower Salem and Lowell are now online.