Olathe News — JCCC to establish public database that tracks spending

JCCC to establish public database that tracks spending
Jack Weinstein, News Editor

Story published: Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008

Johnson County Community College is taking transparency to a new level.

The college will make available next year a searchable database that will allow users to see how it spends its money.

Theoretically, the Kansas Open Records Act would allow someone to access the college’s spending information, but there were two hindrances to it, Hodge said.

“The law doesn’t require that it makes sense,” he said. “When it makes sense, it takes time, money and resources to access the expenditures list. … This will cut through all the red tape and allow people to have at it.”

Currently, the college makes some spending data available on its Web site, http://www.jccc.edu, said Julie Hass, executive director of marketing communications. But, she said it’s not searchable beyond conducting a keyword search in the PDF version of the budget.

Hodge said the idea behind the searchable database would be to allow anyone access to the college’s expenditures in its $143 million budget, a process that began last Summer.

“The administration was very willing to go forward with this,” Hodge said. “I believe the maximum level of transparency is not only a good thing, but a fundamental right of taxpayers.

“My hope is to set a good example for other local governments to do the same thing.”

Tim Danneberg, an Olathe spokesman, said he didn’t know if the city had ever discussed a similar database for Olathe, but was always looking for ways to get financial information to the public that was clear and easily understandable.

“The city council has always made a priority of trying to involve as many people as possible in the budget process through increased scrutiny and additional input,” he said. “It works better. We’re always looking for more tools to help that.”

In other Johnson County Community College news:

  • It announced approval of 2009 to 2010 budget guidelines at its Nov. 20 board of trustees meeting. In-state tuition residents will increase $4 per credit hour to $69 for Johnson County residents and $84 for Kansas residents living outside the county. Out-of-state tuition will increase $10 per credit hour to $159.

The budget will be prepared under the assumption that the county’s valuation will decrease 4 percent and state aid by 8 percent, according to a press release.

  • Olathe resident Melody L. Rayl, has been appointed to fill a vacancy on the college’s seven-member board of trustees. Rayl, an attorney in the Kansas City, Mo. office of international business and litigation firm Bryan Cave LLP, will complete the term of Virginia Krebs, who resigned in October. The term runs through June 30, 2009.

Rayl, who used to teach in the administration of justice program at the college, was selected following the Nov. 20 meeting from a group of 13 applicants for the seat.

She will join the board at its next meeting Dec. 11.