Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners Put the County Checkbook Online for Residents to See
A new section of the County’s website highlights information about County finances, including a new checkbook report. Washtenaw County’s Open Book enables quick access to information about county expenditures, budget and financial reports and is part of a larger move across the country and around the world to provide more accessible and transparent government operations.
The new site is www.ewashtenaw.org/openbook
President Obama’s first directive after taking office focused on local government. The Transparency and Open Government Initiative called for government to be transparent, participatory and collaborative.
Commissioners Wesley Prater and Kristin Judge are spearheading this initiative. The inspiration for this project came while attending a national conference in 2009, Commissioners Prater and Judge learned of a county in Colorado who had already put their county checkbook, credit cards and salaries online for the public to see. One year later, Washtenaw County is proud to introduce the Open Book eWashtenaw Website going live October 8th. “The residents deserve to see how their money is being spent by county government without having to pay for a Freedom of Information request. County staff spends a considerable amount of time preparing requests for information about commissioner spending. All Commissioners spending will now be online. This has truly been a coordinated effort between staff and commissioners,” said Commissioner Kristin Judge.
This Commissioner-led initiative is the work of a team that has been meeting for the last several months to make sure that the initial version of the County's Open Book provides useful and accurate information to our citizens and other interested parties. Future versions of this site will include details on credit card expenditures, P-Card expenditures and salaries.
The team has spent most of their time working on the new check register report. The check register contains details on county expenditures on a transaction level. The report pulls transactions from the County's financial system, JDE and is updated monthly. The report has expenditures from all departments. Transactions that contain information excluded by the Freedom of Information Act or other state of federal laws have been excluded.
The check register reports have been previewed internally with elected officials and department heads. Prior to the public launch of Open Book, the site was previewed on the County’s employee website. Accounting Manager Peter Collinson and Webmaster Andy Brush explain, “As an organization, we knew that we had as much to learn from this exercise as the public, so we took the opportunity to educate ourselves first – to work out the kinks. We also wanted to be sure that we had a chance to ask ourselves the questions that the public might ask.”