Will more financial information about the Cuyahoga Falls City School District soon be just a click away?
The School Board plans to discuss having the district join the Ohio Online Checkbook at its Aug. 18 meeting.
At Board member Barb Gunter's invitation, Drew Stroemple of State Treasurer Josh Mandel's office briefed the Board on the subject July 21.
Saying Mandel is committed to governmental transparency, Stroemple said the treasurer launched the website OhioCheckbook.com to show taxpayers how their tax money is being spent. Millions of transactions by state agencies over past years can be accessed through the database; Stroemple said expenditures can be searched by a keyword and there are comparisons available to past years as well as to other agencies and departments.
Since the Ohio Online Checkbook was launched, the treasurer's office has expanded the site, and Stroemple said Mandel now invites School Boards as well as libraries and cities to join the free online checkbook as well.
Around the state 44 school districts have agreed to join the initiative; Stroemple said those include North Royalton, Cuyahoga Heights and Brunswick.
"One of the reasons we've had such a great response from school districts is that we work very hard to create a very easy-to-upload system," Stroemple said. "Your treasurer could easily, in under 10 minutes, be able to send the information to our tech team and we could build the site for you within a week."
Board Vice President Kathy Moffet asked if there is any provision for explanatory details to accompany the financial data to make it easier for citizens to interpret the numbers and why they might vary from year to year. Stroemple said such information could be incorporated into a "Frequently Asked Questions" section.
Moffet also asked if a similar online checkbook is being developed to provide transparency for nonpublic schools. Stroemple said he did not know.
"I support using the open checkbook for the school district for many reasons," Gunter told the Cuyahoga Falls News-Press July 22, "The first being open and transparent government. Secondly, as the district moves forward with the bond issue, levy renewals, and possibly asking for new levies in the future, I cannot think of a better way to show the public where the money goes and to who it goes, such as vendors the district contracts with. Thirdly it's up and running 24/7/365 so the information is accessible on the users time not the district's operating hours."
"I am really excited about looking into doing something like this," Board member Kellie Patterson told her colleagues. "I think it would be beneficial to all."
"I would encourage public to let the Board know if they wish to see this tool in place," Gunter said.
Twitter: @ EllinWalsh_RPC