London City Council was visited by representatives from the office of the State Treasurer of Ohio at its regular meeting Thursday evening.
Public Affairs Liaison Mary Crall and Deputy Director of Public Affairs Frank Kohstall addressed council to present details on the launching of the city’s online checkbook on OhioCheckbook.com, the state website — the first of its kind in Ohio history — that puts all state expenditure information on the internet for public inspection.
The main website, launched in December of 2014, was created to foster financial transparency and fiscal responsibility and reduce corruption from state and local governments.
“The most important thing about this is that it is a voluntary program and in doing so, the city is showing it wants to build communication and trust with the local community,” said Crall.
The site operates at no cost to those local governments partnered with the state for the program.
The city’s display, which can be directly accessed at https://london.ohiocheckbook.com, currently shows just over two years of information, including $35 million in spending and over 17,000 transactions.
Council members, Mayor Patrick Closser and Ohio State Senator Bob Hackett who was also in attendance, voiced their support for the program.
“The City of London is proud to take an important step forward in providing financial transparency for our citizens,” said Councilman Trint Hatt.
Jerry Bales of 15 Graham Ave. spoke to council on the state of the storm drains project from Graham Avenue to Stewart Avenue.
“I was here for three months solid about the storm drains problem. I decided I’d be the daily inspector on it, and I have to say it passed with flying colors,” he said.
The first five minutes of city official reports revolved around an apparent lack of communication between council members and the administration, specifically Councilwoman Brenda Russell not being informed that the city’s participation in the Ohio checkbook program was completed.
“I like to be up front,” Russell said. “I had no idea it was already in place and I don’t think anybody else did. I did not know it was a done deal.”
“Like I stated to the treasurer’s office, we never technically needed permission from council to do this in the first place,” said City Auditor Nick Szabo, “but you all wanted to bring legislation and unfortunately it was forbidden at the time.”
“I wasn’t against it (the Ohio checkbook Program)…I would have liked an email saying we are going to do that,” Russell responded back.
In other business Mayor Closser spoke on information regarding House Bill 49. According to information prepared by Deputy Tax Director Amy Marsh, HB49 would have a negative impact on the city’s finances and workings.
Some of those main points were:
• Prevent community business from having the convenience of a local tax office;
• CPAs would have to deal with an impersonal state automated system with much longer response time when inquiring about estimated taxes;
• No documentation would be on file once a business filed with the state;
• Any discrepancies found in auditing could take months before a business was informed;
• The city would lose money because it does not pay 3 percent to an outside company to collect taxes;
• Budgeting would be negatively affected because the city would receive monies from the state quarterly;
• The state is going after net profits through the Gateway. London currently receives about $55,000 in net profits through the gateway; and
• London would be paying the state for services already being done.
The Mayor was skeptical of the prospect.
“The big issue is what are they going do next year, what are they going to do in four years, what are they going to do in 10 years? They are just going to keep chipping away until they collect everything.”
Reach Andrew Garrett at 740-852-1616, ext. 1616.