Northwestern Local Schools announced a partnership Friday with Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, becoming the first Clark County entity to put its checkbook online.
Last December, Mandel launched OhioCheckbook.com, which put all state spending information online. OhioCheckbook.com displays more than $408 billion in spending over the past seven years, including more than 112 million transactions.
“I’m proud that Northwestern Schools volunteered to be the first local government of any kind to put their checkbook online. The school board and school officials should be applauded for being leaders in this transparency movement,” Mandel said.
Mandel was joined on Friday by Northwestern Local Schools board President Richard Birt, Northwestern Treasurer Dave Bollheimer and Senator Chris Widener.
The database was created to allow residents to see how local governments and schools are spending their tax dollars, Mandel said.
In April, Mandel sent letters to 18,062 local government and school officials representing 3,962 local governments throughout the state calling on them to place their checkbook online free of charge. Local governments include cities, counties, townships, schools, library districts and other special districts, according to a press release from Mandel’s office.
“I believe taxpayers have a right to know how the tax money is being spent. My initiative is all about empowering taxpayers to hold politicians accountable. OhioCheckbook.com is a transparency tool that gives power to the people,” Mandel said. “My ultimate vision is to create an army of citizen watchdogs who have the power to hold politicians accountable.”
Birt said the district has always been about transparency and wanted to show the community how officials are investing their tax dollars.
“We’re excited to participate in this online checkbook program that really is going to provide us a resource to share with our community where their tax dollars are going, how we’re investing their money into the future of our community and how we’re working with them to be a partner in an open and transparent form of government,” Birt said.
Mandel said the site cost the state treasurer’s office $814,000 to build.
Widener encouraged Clark County, city commissioners and area school district’s to participate.
Mandel said he anticipates there will be leaders and followers in the process, and Northwestern has chosen to be a leader among agencies by agreeing to put their checkbook online.
“I think their leadership will help to inspire other school districts and local governments throughout Clark County and throughout the state of Ohio to follow suit,” Mandel said.
He said the site will make local government officials think twice about booking hotel stays at expensive locations or going to conferences in Hawaii, for example, when they could have attended a conference in Cincinnati.
Mandel said he’s receive positive responses from local government officials about the site, but added that he would begin putting pressure on government officials for those that lag in putting their information online.
State Rep. Kyle Koehler praised Mandel for establishing the site and applauded Northwestern for agreeing to put their checkbook online.
“Anytime we can take and create transparency so that taxpayers can see exactly where their money is being spent, I think that is a great thing. And that’s exactly what they treasurer is doing and I’m glad to see Northwestern on board,” Koehler said.
Koehler said he would encourage other local governments in Clark County to follow suit.
“I think it helps build trust and we need more of that in government today,” Koehler said.