News Release: Norwood Township and Two More School Districts Show Michigan the Money

But 21st century spending transparency still unrealized for taxpayers in Grand Rapids and West Michigan

For Immediate Release
Thursday, July 23, 2009

Contact: Ken Braun
Policy Analyst
989-631-0900

MIDLAND - Separated by hundreds of miles and of vastly different sizes, a tiny township north of Lake Charlevoix, a large metro Detroit school district and a smaller school district in the Thumb area all have something in common: They are the latest public entities to "Show Michigan the Money" and put their checkbooks online for taxpayer inspection. Norwood Township, Romulus Community Schools and Marlette Community Schools join a growing list of local governments and school districts embracing this fast-growing transparency trend, according to Ken Braun, director of the Mackinac Center's "Show Michigan the Money" project. Braun has been encouraging all 551 public school districts and every municipality in Michigan to regularly provide this data on their Web sites and predicts that many more will be added within the next couple of weeks.

Norwood joins several other towns in posting its spending data and, with just 714 residents, may be the smallest Michigan community yet to provide this information in such an accessible format.

"Having politicians in a small community like Norwood get this done is just another reminder that it's the size of a public official's principles, not the size of the community's treasury, that brings about a spirit of open government," said Braun.

With the addition of Marlette and Romulus, there are now 48 public school districts and one intermediate school district statewide providing this information on the Internet, including half of the largest 20 districts. Nearly one in five public school students now attend a district that has an online check register. Links to all 48 district checkbook registers are available at www.mackinac.org/9329.

"Romulus Community Schools believes that it is a fiscally responsible district, and being transparent only solidifies this belief," said Sherri Papazoglou, the district's director of business and operations. "We have a very supportive community and feel that this project is a great way to show [them] that their kids come first when spending their resources."

Marlette Superintendent Duane Lange echoed that sentiment. "The Marlette Schools check register is a public document that is approved at our public school board meeting, so if there is a request to have the document posted on our Web site we are more than willing to honor that request," Lange said.

While there are now checkbooks online for 15 school districts in Oakland County, 10 in Wayne County, four in Macomb County, two in Livingston County and one in Monroe County, Braun said that districts in the Grand Rapids area have been conspicuously guarded about their spending details.

"We have been diligently contacting school districts in Kent and Ottawa counties about joining the 21st century by using the Internet to keep taxpayers and parents informed," said Braun. "Unfortunately, unlike the eager and open response we've received from many districts in Southeast Michigan, transparency is encountering more resistance in districts on the other side of the state."

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