3 Clark County school districts join online checkbook

Clark-Shawnee, Greenon, Southeastern make move to be more transparent.

The Clark-Shawnee, Greenon and Southeastern school districts Thursday announced a partnership with Ohio’s treasurer to put their checkbooks online.

That brings to five the number of Clark County entities that have agreed to the new initiative. Northwestern Local Schools was the first Clark County entity to announce plans to put its checkbook online in June. Northeastern Local Schools also has its checkbook online.

“There’s 348 out of 3,962 (local governments and schools) that have committed to putting their finances online, about 10 percent of the state so far. You guys being in that first 10 percent I think exhibits leadership,” Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel said.

In December 2014, Mandel launched OhioCheckbook.com, which put all state spending information online. OhioCheckbook.com displays more than $473 billion in spending over the past eight years, including more than 130 million transactions.

“This is a process where there’s going to be leaders and followers and your leadership today helps me leverage this announcement to encourage other school districts around the state of Ohio to put their finances online as well,” Mandel said.

Greenon displays more than $109 million of total spending over the past seven fiscal years while Southeastern displays more than $55 million for the same period. Clark-Shawnee displays more than $103 million of total spending over the past five fiscal years.

The database was created to allow residents to see how local governments and schools are spending their tax dollars, Mandel said. Those government entities include cities, counties, townships, schools, library districts and other special districts.

The checkbook sites now include more than 6.6 million individual checks that equate to more than $18.2 billion in total spending, according to a press release from Mandel.

Ohio’s treasurer was joined Thursday by Southeastern and Greenon Schools Treasurer Brad McKee, Clark-Shawnee Treasurer Thomas Faulkner and Clark-Shawnee Superintendent Gregg Morris.

Morris said his district agreed to partner with Mandel and post its information online in an effort to be more “transparent.”

“We just appreciate the opportunity to have this program and we’re always looking for ways to be transparent and to be accountable for the dollars that we have,” Morris said. “We have a really good treasurer in our district, and I’m really proud and pleased that he’s embraced this.”

Mandel demonstrated how the site works, saying users can search by vendor, agency and type of spending — such as travel, administrative services and consulting, for example.

“This is the first time in American history that local governments all have an opportunity at no cost to them to post all these finances online. So what we’re doing in Ohio is very unique,” Mandel said.

“This is an initiative that’s setting off a national race for transparency,” he continued.

Greenon Superintendent Brad Silvus said the district participated because officials want to be open to the public about how funds are used.

“It’s about being transparent with our dollars. We’re asking for more at times so we need to make sure everybody knows what’s being spent, where and how,” he said.

Southeastern Superintendent David Shea said school district spending has always been available via public records.

“I don’t think this is a huge step for districts,” he said. “You’re accountable when you get audited and everything is public record already, but it will make it easier for people to see.”

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