By Wayne Allen
The Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA) Board of Directors met in regular session on Thursday and voted to proceed with put the organization’s checkbook online.
The office of Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel has an ongoing initiative aimed at getting local governments and associated agencies to place their checkbook online. Earlier this year Mandel sent a letter to 18,062 local government and school officials representing 3,962 local governments throughout the state calling on them to place their checkbook level data on OhioCheckBook.com at no cost.
OhioCheckbook.com was launched on Dec. 2, 2014, marking the first time in Ohio history when citizens could see every expenditure in state government. Since its launch, there have been more than 275,000 total searches on the site. OhioCheckbook.com displays more than $408 billion in spending over the past seven years, including more than 112 million transactions.
An online checkbook has been the topic of recent debate in county government; the board of the Lawrence Scioto Solid Waste Management District declined an offer to put their checkbook online.
The Scioto County Commissioners have voiced their reservations about the system and its necessity. Some of the commissioners have called the idea stupid and a waste of time.
Scioto County Auditor David Green said he’s open to putting the counties checkbook online, but wants to wait for more counties to start using the system before he would commit.
According to information from Mandel’s office, SOPA will be the first port authority in the state to sign on to the system.The SOPA Board held a lengthy discussion on the pros and cons of taking such action. SOPA Executive Director Jason Kester said the commissioners are reluctant to join the system because Scioto County has roughly 60,000 financial transitions a year and SOPA has roughly 500 financial transitions a year.
“The auditor’s office has some technology that would allow them to do this quickly. We’re (SOPA) are a hand entry,” Kester said. “They (auditor) have the capabilities to run reports we can’t run because they are operating on more advance software than we are.”
Kester said prior to the vote of the board he has been preparing information and is just about finished. Once finished gathering information it can be sent to Mandell’s office to be included on the online checkbook. Kester said information to be included from 2013 to 2015.
Kester said one of the advantages of the system is showing funding sources for each transaction. Kester said one of the most common questions he receives is how things are funded.
“You’ll be able to go on the website and see a trip to Dallas (Texas) and see who’s paying for it,” Kester said.
At the end of a lengthy discussion, 14 members voted yes, one member voted no and one member abstained.
For more information about the program visit OhioCheckbook.com.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 1933 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT