College to make spending data open on Web, Kansas City Star

College to make spending data open on Web
Kansas City Star- Saturday, November 15, 2008
Author: JIM SULLINGER, The Kansas City Star
KanView shows you the money.

It’s an Internet site that allows citizens to see to whom state government has written checks for services and products, and it’s the only Internet service of its kind in Kansas.

But that will change next spring when the Johnson County Community College unveils its own searchable database site for the spending it does.

Terry A. Calaway, college president, said it is a way to make college spending more transparent for taxpayers.

One state legislators who pushed for the creation of this service was former Kansas Rep. Ben Hodge of Overland Park.

Hodge, a member of the Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees, left the Legislature in May, but he pushed the concept at the college.

The state took two years to develop its site, Calaway said, and the college has been working on its project only a few months. He said officials want to be careful about the content it puts online so no one’s privacy is invaded.

For example, he said, many students pay college tuition and fees with credit cards. It wouldn’t be appropriate, he said, for those credit card numbers to show up on a Web site. The site eventually will show sources of revenue as well as spending.

“The next best thing to a smaller budget is more sunshine so that taxpayers can begin to see where their money is going,” Hodge said.

Hodge believes the community college is the first local government in Kansas to provide this service. The college will spend about $143 million in its current fiscal year. General budget information is already online at the college Web site, http://www.jccc.edu, but is not searchable.

Hodge said he hopes cities and counties, and especially school districts, will follow the example of KanView and the college in establishing more budget transparency through similar Internet services.

So far, none have.

Randall Allen, executive director of the Kansas Association of Counties, said many rural counties already print expenditures in local newspapers. However, he said, only a handful of large counties might possess the technical expertise to develop a site like KanView.

Officials of the League of Kansas Municipalities said they knew of no large city planning to initiate such an Internet service.

Earlier this year, lawmakers defeated efforts in the Kansas House to require school districts to provide similar information.

“There are about 300 kindergarten-through-12th-grade school districts in Kansas that receive 50 percent of the state’s tax dollars,” Hodge said, “and nobody can make sense of any of the budgets.”

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