A few minutes dedicated to government transparency was all it took to save one public school district tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars.
East China School District in St. Clair County recently decided to put its checkbook register online. The register outlines all of the district’s expenses each month. School board member Allen Reichle said this helped save about $60,000 when a local resident noticed the district had made a mistake when putting one of its expenses up for a bid. Reichle said the district ended up purchasing copying service from a new provider for substantially less than the district's current plan.
“We did not open up the bidding for one of our services and just went through the same company we had always [used],” said Reichle. “[Luckily], we had a meeting where a citizen brought this up.”
East China has joined the growing list of public schools posting their checkbook registers online, said Ken Braun, director of the Mackinac Center's "Show Michigan the Money" project. Braun has been encouraging all 551 public school districts to regularly provide this data on their websites.
“As this district has shown, government transparency has positive ‘real world’ effects,” said Braun. “Greater openness in government helps not only prevent corruption, but lays out exactly how public entities spend taxpayer dollars.”
Besides helping public officials do their jobs, Reichle has another reason why districts should be open with their finances. “This is a public school district; we serve the public,” he said.
“People need to see what’s on the agenda.”
The current list of schools known to be posting online check registers at the Show Michigan the Money website links to the check registers of 81 conventional school districts, two charter public schools and three intermediate school districts.
To see East China School District’s checkbook register, visit the school website here. The register is under the school board’s “meeting agendas.”
Links to all school district checkbook registers are available at www.mackinac.org/9329.