Auditor of State Dave Yost recently said if your local government isn’t utilizing the online checkbook, you should explain to the people of the community why, because “there’s no good reason.”
In 2015 State Treasurer Josh Mandel invited all municipalities and other government entities, including schools to go online with their checkbook so the taxpayers could see how their dollars are being spent.
The Daily Times did a quick check of government bodies in Scioto County to see if they are up and running. The result of the inquiry is that none of the centralized government systems in the county have availed themselves of the free service.
The closest to getting their checkbook online is New Boston.
“We’ve turned in all the information, (Village Clerk) Lana (Loper) isn’t here. She normally handles it, and I think they have sent it to us and all she (Loper) has to do is basically give it a once-over, look it over and see if she agrees with what they’ve done and how it looks and everything, and then it’s just a matter of getting back with them and giving them the okay to go ahead and put it online,” New Boston Mayor Junior Williams said. “I think it is just a matter of her review and her approval. I think a quick email or a phone call and it’s on there.”
Williams said the time frame is a short one.
“I would expect it this month, no later than the end of the year,” Williams said.
From time to time, members of Portsmouth City Council bring the question up to City Auditor Trent Williams who has made it clear it is not a priority.
“As I said at that (City Council) meeting, it wasn’t the highest priority,” Williams said. “It’s something that I have intended to do have completed by the end of the year. As far as I can tell, it’s still on schedule.”
What is the city’s time frame?
“It’s probably not going to be before the end of the year,” Williams said. “I’ve just been in contact recently with our software provider and got one of the kinks worked out. There’s a report that wasn’t running properly. (Getting it ready by the end of the year) has been my intention the entire way and I see no reason why it wouldn’t be right on schedule the way it should be.”
The Scioto County government has not made a final decision as to whether they will put their checkbook online or not.
“I think that’s something that (County Auditor) David Green is looking at,” Scioto County Commissioner Mike Crabtree said. “That’s a decision for him to make because he’s the one who’s going to have to do it. He said he was looking into it. He said he was going to see how it worked out with some of the other counties before he got involved with it. As far as we’re concerned we don’t have any objections to him using the online checkbook, but they’re not going to force his hand.”
“I haven’t given it much thought lately,” Green said. “It’s still up in the air.”
One of the agencies that has been active on the online checkbook is the Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA) and currently anyone can go in and find two years of information.
“The reason we thought it was important is that it’s very important to be transparent,” SOPA Director Jason Kester said. “We’ve got funds that come in from public, we’ve got funds that come in from private/public partnerships, public/public partnerships, so just trying to keep track of all that and let the public know all those different pots of money, how they mix together, people can see that.”
Kester said he hasn’t updated the online checkbook recently, because SOPA changed accounting systems.
“The Treasurer’s office has really worked with us really well in helping us figure out what we need to do technoloigy-wise to gwet the systems to work,” Kester said. He said SOPA’s circumstances are different from agencies that only deal with tax money.
Townships, libraries and other smaller Ohio governments now can make their spending publicly available online with the click of a button.
Currently more than 1,900 entities use Ohio’s Uniform Accounting Network. They are able to log into their online account and, if they choose, can go onto OhioCheckbook.com which is in operation in Mandel’s office. There is no charge for small governments to participate. So far, some 400 local governments are online.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.