Urbana City School leaders will put the district’s finances on Ohio’s online checkbook as its new $65 million buildings are getting closer to opening.
The move is to create a more accessible district, Superintendent Charles Thiel said.
“It an avenue of transparency with the community,” he said.
The Ohio Online Checkbook is a website run by the Ohio Treasurer’s Office that allows users to search public agencies’ financial records, according to the website. The Urbana City School information is currently available at OhioCheckbook.com.
Urbana residents trusted district leaders when they agreed to build two new schools, Thiel said, and the move to put the district’s finances online will help anyone interested in finding out how the district spends its money.
“Currently, it looks like we are spending a lot of money because we are in the construction process with our buildings,” he said.
Voters approved a $31 million bond issue for both a new high school and a kindergarten-through-eighth grade primary school on U.S. 68 south of town.
The cost of the new high school is $25 million and the primary school is about $39.5 million. The state will pick up about 61 percent of the total costs.
The district is spending about $3 million a month because of the new schools, Thiel said, and transparency is more important than ever.
“That is a lot of money every single month,” he said. “That is another piece that is part of that, people can see how we are spending those funds.”
The new high school will open in early April, Thiel said, after spring break.
“For our high school, the building is currently on schedule,” he said. “Things are being put in place and we have furniture that is going in now.”
Urbana City Schools have always been open with how it spends money, Thiel said, and anyone interested is welcome to check the records both online or on paper.
“From a public point of view, anybody who wants to see our books are more than welcome to call, ask questions, do records request and everything is really transparent,” Thiel said. “Now with the opportunity with the online checkbook program, it will be easier for somebody to but a higher level overview of where the dollars are being spent.”
The Ohio Checkbook has been operating since late 2014. Urbana schools leaders have known about it since its launch, Thiel said, but didn’t want to jump on board immediately until the district had a better understanding of how it works.
“We wanted to make sure it was done right,” he said.
Ohio Treasurer John Mandel released a statement saying he believes Urbana City Schools leaders did the right thing by adding themselves to the website.
“I believe the people of Champaign County have a right to know how their tax money is being spent, and I applaud local leaders here for partnering with my office to post the finances on OhioCheckbook.com,” Mandel said. “By posting local government spending online, we are empowering taxpayers across Ohio to hold public officials accountable.”
Other local agencies on the checkbook from the area include Springfield Twp., Madison Twp., Northwestern Local Schools and Tecumseh Local Schools.
Staying with the story
The Springfield News-Sun has tracked Urbana City Schools efforts to build new schools, including stories digging into the costs and problems with the first site chosen for the primary school.