NEW PARIS — The Village of New Paris council is considering putting the village expenditures online so the public can easily view them via the Ohio Checkbook Project.
Back in the winter, Senior Public Affairs Liaison with the Treasurer of Ohio Lauren Bowen presented to council her idea of making an online platform. She attended the council meeting on Monday, Aug. 7, to revisit the idea and see what the council was considering.
“I was out here in the winter months and I discussed the possibility of the village collaborating with the Treasurer’s Office to make public records available online, specifically those related to your expenditure items,” she said. “I know there were mixed feelings about that, but I made a commitment that I would come with more information.”
She provided council members with packets that shows what the layout of the proposed website would look like.
“It is something we are looking to do to modernize and update the way public records are offered up,” she added. “The Ohio Checkbook Project is something we’re trying to do with every local government throughout the state. We’re coordinating an effort with them to make it so they’re essentially improving upon the way they can access public information.
“We handle all the mechanics out of our office, and the cost of handling on the state’s end. We’re just looking for your blessing. This is a really neat way for the public to have access to how the village spends it’s money. We’ve had great responses. Over 1,000 local governments have done this, that’s over four from the state,” Bowen said. “We’re really working hard to get in front of everyone and have a conversation.”
In Preble County, both Camden and Gratis utilize this platform. Bowen added, she has visited Eldorado and is soon headed to West Elkton. She is also approaching townships.
The Ohio Checkbook platform includes an email system allowing the public can ask a question on an expenditure if someone has one. The council would not be legally obligated to respond, but it is a tool which could be utilized.
Bowen said she believes it would eventually make it cheaper for audits, due to the digital nature of the platform and how much faster it would make the process.
There will be no cost, and there is no contract. If the village at any point decided they did not like the platform, they can cancel easily, according to Bowen.
Council member Kathy Smallwood said, “I think our concern is that people would see it and not know what these expenditures are. They won’t know what that’s going for. So they’ll be sending emails or stopping by the office and [Fiscal Officer Amanda Davies] will be overwhelmed.”
Bowen responded, “It adds lots of context. It’s not just posting expenditures, it’s connecting the spending to the police department, it’s connecting the expenditures to the road department. In that way it is offering a lot of context.”
“Can you give us a little time to talk to Camden and do some research?” Smallwood asked, to which Bowen agreed she could.
“I really like the idea, because younger generations are switching to technology now,” council member Sasha Cortner said. “People are always asking where our money goes and if you look in [the packet] it shows where the money is going. You don’t have to have the person-to-person interaction. It’s easy to view and if they do have a question [Davies] can answer it. This right here is the future. I hate to say it and a lot of people won’t like it, but this is the future.”
Council members agreed they needed a little more time to think about the proposal and would get back to Bowen with the village’s decision.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH