Ohio’s online checkbook program expands again

Staff report

COLUMBUS — Five statewide public pension funds — Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS), the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio (STRS Ohio), the School Employees Retirement System (SERS) of Ohio, the Ohio Highway Patrol Retirement System (HPRS) and the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund’s (OP&F) — are now using Ohio’s online checkbooks on OhioCheckbook.com.

In 2014, Treasurer Josh Mandel launched OhioCheckbook.com, which was designed to set a new national standard for government transparency and for the first time in Ohio history puts all state spending information on the internet. OhioCheckbook.com recently earned Ohio the No. 2 government transparency ranking in the country for a second year in a row.

With today’s historic announcement, Ohio becomes the first state in the country to have all statewide public pension fund checkbooks online.

“A pension system that is responsible for the stewardship of member and employer contributions must always operate in full view of the public,” said OPERS executive director Karen Carraher. “By contributing data to the treasurer’s online checkbook, OPERS continues its 80-year legacy of transparency.”

“I believe the taxpayers and retirees of Ohio have a right to know how their tax money is being spent, and I applaud Ohio’s public pension funds for partnering with my office to post their finances on OhioCheckbook.com,” said Treasurer Mandel. “My vision is to create an army of citizen watchdogs who are empowered to hold public officials accountable.”

“We applaud the pension funds for participating in the OhioCheckbook.com database,” said Dennis Hetzel, Executive Director of the Ohio Newspaper Association. “Providing ready, clear access to this information supports their stewardship of billions of dollars on behalf of retirees, public employees and the taxpayers of Ohio.”

On April 7, 2015, Mandel sent a letter to 18,062 local government and school officials representing 3,962 local governments throughout the state calling on them to place their checkbook level data on OhioCheckbook.com and extending an invitation to partner with his office at no cost to local governments. These local governments include cities, counties, townships, schools, library districts and other special districts.

A large coalition of statewide and local government organizations have expressed support for OhioCheckbook.com and local government transparency, including: Ohio Municipal League, Ohio Township Association, Ohio Association of School Business Officials. Buckeye Association of School Administrators, County Commissioner Association of Ohio, County Auditor Association of Ohio, Ohio Newspaper Association, Ohio Society of CPAs, Buckeye Institute and Common Cause Ohio.

OhioCheckbook.com launched on December 2, 2014 marked the first time in Ohio history when citizens could actually see every expenditure in state government. Since its launch, OhioCheckbook.com has received overwhelming support from newspapers and groups. as of Sept. 12, there have been more than 618,000 total searches on the site.

OhioCheckbook.com has displayed more than $540 billion in spending over the past eight years, including more than 148 million transactions.

For more information or to view your local government website, visit the Local Government option on www.OhioCheckbook.com

Staff report