By: Tyler Buchanan, Ohio Capital Journal
A website dedicated to giving Ohioans a transparent look at the state’s finances was reintroduced this week.
The revamp involved an effort to merge two similar websites together: OhioCheckbook.com, managed by the state treasurer’s office, and a separate interactive budget more closely associated with the governor.
The new OhioCheckbook.gov offers a slate of financial records — from state employees’ salaries to a breakdown of budget spending.
In a news release, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted called the change a “better, more transparent service for Ohoians and the media, while also doing it at a lower cost.” Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague said, “When government works together, it serves its people better.”
Anotherr key component involves the willing participation of smaller public entities all around the state. Over the past handful of years, a growing number of towns, counties and school districts have voluntarily signed up to have their own finances posted on the Ohio Checkbook.
However, not all of the data from the old website was transferred over to the new one. Back in 2016, The Associated Press reported then-Treasurer Josh Mandel championed the addition of five public universities to the Ohio Checkbook: Bowling Green, Central State, Miami, Wright State and Ohio.
Clicking on the new website’s “Colleges and Universities” tab, only Miami University shows up.
Brittany Halpin, a spokesperson for the treasurer’s office, explained that some of the data provided to the former website was in an outdated format and wasn’t carried over.
In this example, the other four universities signed up in 2016 to participate, sent over Fiscal Year 2015 data, then apparently never submitted financial records in the years since.
Halpin said in an email the treasurer’s office will be working to “assist government entities of all types to join the site and/or update the information they provide.”
How the Ohio Checkbook works
So, what information is available on the Ohio Checkbook?
On a broader scale, the checkbook offers a 30,000 foot view of the entire state budget with a basic breakdown of how money is spent.
There is also a state employee salary search function, with a breakdown per agency, and a listing of companies which receive the most state funding contracts. (Several construction companies top the list.)From there, users can get as granular as they’d like. Click on “higher education” and you can learn that Ohio is spending $2.77 billion this fiscal year, or 3.5% of the overall budget. From there, you can see how Ohio State University receives the largest instructional subsidy of any public university.
Local government participation remains optional. At this point, 45 of Ohio’s 88 counties have signed up:
You can give the Ohio Checkbook a look to see if there’s anything interesting of note.
When government works together, it serves its people better.
Together w/ @LtGovHusted & @OH_OBM_Director, we’re proud to unveil the new https://t.co/CsuYn8ilWz – an all-in-one resource to track state and local government spending. #OhioCheckbookhttps://t.co/MmaWCilQ7N pic.twitter.com/Z9u2olLAHM
— Treasurer Robert Sprague (@OhioTreasurer) June 30, 2020