From Left, City Council President Pete Weir, Village of Wren Mayor Monica Davis, State Representative Craig Riedel, Van Wert Auditor Martha Balyeat, Van Wert Councilman Ken Markward, Village of Wren Fiscal Officer Jessica Heckler and Van Wert Mayor Jerry Mazur. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
From Left, City Council President Pete Weir, Village of Wren Mayor Monica Davis, State Representative Craig Riedel, Van Wert Auditor Martha Balyeat, Van Wert Councilman Ken Markward, Village of Wren Fiscal Officer Jessica Heckler and Van Wert Mayor Jerry Mazur. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – The City of Van Wert, Village of Wren and Village of Willshire launched their online checkbooks on OhioCheckbook.com Thursday, making the city and village’s expenditures more transparent for the public.

OhioCheckbook.com was launched by Treasurer Josh Mandel in December 2014, which set a national standard for government transparency and, for the first time in Ohio history, put all state spending information on the internet.

Present were Van Wert Mayor Jerry Mazur, Van Wert Auditor Martha Balyeat, Van Wert Council President Pete Weir, and Van Wert Councilman Ken Markward. Also joining in the announcement were Village of Wren Mayor Monica Davis, Village of Wren Fiscal Officer Jessica Heckler and State Representative Craig Riedel.

“I want to congratulate the City of Van Wert, the Village of Wren, and the Village of Willshire,” said Riedel to those present. “I think that what you’ve all done here by joining the Ohio Checkbook is wonderful and I’m very proud that you’ve done this. I’m hopeful that you guys will be a shining example for more communities to want to do this.”

Andrew Coutts, public affairs liaison and project management officer with the Treasurer’s office, gave a tutorial of the Checkbook website.

Coutts explained that the entire website is user friendly. In the City of Van Wert’s case, citizens can see the last three years worth of expenditures. Not only are they laid out in an excel format, but they are put into graphs to make it very easy to see where the city is spending its money.

Citizens can choose from a bar graph, pie chart, tree graph, and a line graph and will be able to compare past year’s with current year’s expenditures.

“I believe the people of Van Wert County have a right to know how their tax money is being spent, and I applaud local leaders here for partnering with my office to post the finances on OhioCheckbook.com,” said Treasurer Mandel in a press release. “By posting local government spending online, we are empowering taxpayers across Ohio to hold public officials accountable.”

“The City of Van Wert is excited to join the OhioCheckbook.com initiative with other leaders in Van Wert County,” added Balyeat. “We believe using this software will help open lines of communication with our citizens.”

“The Village of Wren is proud to join the other leaders in transparency across Van Wert County,” continued Davis. “We believe this tool is a powerful platform to help us be more financially responsible.”

Van Wert, Wren, and Willshire are the second, third, and fourth local governments in Van Wert County to use OhioCheckbook.com. The Village of Scott has already been using the service.

Through Van Wert’s online checkbook, citizens will be able to view over 31,000 individual transactions that represent more than $47 million worth of total spending for the past three years.

To view Van Wert, Wren, or Willshire’s checkbook account, simply go to ohiocheckbook.com. From there, click “Local Gov & Schools” at the top of the page. In the search bar, search for the area of interest and view their checkbook.

The site also allows for citizens to ask questions on an expenditure if they are curious about it. Balyeat said she expects to update the information annually so citizens can compare year-by-year.