Mandel Pushing Local Governments To Post Spending On Ohio Checkbook

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Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel is asking local governments to post their expenditures online.

Mandel’s office sent letters to more than 18,000 government officials and local school boards around the state urging them to join

Mandel said his objective is simply to let Ohioans know how their tax dollars are spent.

“What we’re trying to do is take citizens who may feel powerless and make them powerful,” Mandel said.

This is the second phase of Mandel’s transparency project. The first put state government expenditures on the Ohio Checkbook.

The treasurer said the cost of the program depends on how many of the nearly 4,000 local governments and school boards choose to participate. The program is voluntary.

Northwest Local Schools in Butler County will be one of the first school districts in Ohio to publish its spending on the website.

Northwest School Board President Dan Unger said this gives the board the chance to clear up what he calls misinformation about their spending.

“It’ll put a thousand sets of eyes on our checkbook,” Unger said. “If we’re doing something wrong someone is sure to point it out.”

Unger encourages other Greater Cincinnati school districts to follow Northwest’s lead.

“We want to be the state school district leader in transparency,” Unger said.

State Auditor Dave Yost called the program “the most important transparency initiative since the original public records law.”

While many support the treasurer’s program, some local governments and school boards may experience roadblocks.

When the state posted its spending online, it benefited from using a uniform accounting system across all state agencies.

Mandel said every office “small, large and everything in between” was on the same system, which made posting their information easy.

However, local governments and school boards do not necessarily follow the same process, which may cause complications for those who want to publish spending.

Also, some smaller cities and towns, particularly those in Ohio’s Appalachian region, have poor broadband infrastructure, which could also hinder their ability to participate.

Mandel also hinted earlier this year about putting public universities’ and pension funds’ spending information on, but said that phase will come down the road.