YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Anyone who wants to see where Mahoning County government officials spend their tax dollars soon will be able to look for that information online.
On Tuesday morning, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel announced that Mahoning County soon will be the first county in the state to post its budget information, including salaries of county employees, on the online spending-tracking website, Ohiocheckbook.com.
Mahoning County Auditor Ralph Meacham said the process of loading local financial information onto the state’s database will take some time, but he said it is the right thing to do.
“This will be a process. We are not going to get this done overnight. There is a lot of places to get to between here and there. But we will get it up. We will get it up accurately. And the people of Mahoning County deserve this transparency. I believe we have good managers of their money and we will show it. We will prove it in the next six months,” Meacham said.
Mandel’s office established the online checkbook website late last year, posting all state budget information. Mandel is now hoping that all 3,900 local governments and school boards in Ohio will post their information as well.
“My vision here is to create an army of citizen watchdogs who are empowered to hold politicians accountable. The money that we have here is not our money. This is the taxpayers’ money,” Mandel said during his Youngstown visit.
Mandel sent out 18,000 letters last week to local leaders pressing them to get on board. With Mahoning County now taking part, the Treasurer is hoping for a domino effect.
“And a lot of these local leaders are going to have to be pushed and nudged and encouraged by the media and interested citizens,” Mandel said.
County officials said the open access to records will save time now spent handling public records requests, as well as answering some critics.
“Hopefully it will eliminate a lot of the misconceptions of where our money goes, where it is spent, how we receive money. Those seem to be the biggest confusions is how we get our money,” Mahoning County Engineer Pat Ginnetti said.
Mandel said listing the information on the state’s database won’t cost any local tax dollars.