After years of residents asking for it, James City County is set to make it easier for people to follow the money.
The county is creating an “online checkbook” for residents to follow county expenditures, according to Assistant County Manager Jason Purse. County residents have advocated for the move to more clearly open the books for years.
It was a fight spearheaded by county resident Barbara Henry since Oct. 13, 2015.
“This kind of transparency is absolutely essential to good government, it just is,” Henry said. “Without us having open books we can’t see where our tax dollars are going.”
The new online tool will allow anyone with internet access to sift through county expenditures from the comfort of their homes, according to Purse.
The checkbook will show “anything the county cuts a check for, any kind of services,” Purse said.
The push by the county comes after supervisors Sue Sadler and Jim Icenhour broached the subject with other supervisors and Interim County Manager Bill Porter.
“For anybody who’s active or interested in what’s going on in the county, it’s an opportunity for them to see what we’re doing and how we’re spending the money,” Icenhour said.
Porter has previously worked for county governments with a similar online checkbook system, Purse said.
“I think with the change of administration early in the year, the board was willing to take a look at it,” Icenhour said. “The important thing is to make the information available at a minimal cost.”
For Henry, the online checkbook is a success she had only hoped for.
“It took me by surprise,” Henry said of the county’s decision.
Henry is a frequent speaker at Board of Supervisors meetings. She said she has spoken about the online checkbook before the board on 18 different occasions.
Sadler said she initially learned about the online tool from Henry, but it became an issue she campaigned on.
“It is vitally important for the people who are contributing to the local government through taxes for them to see exactly how that money is being spent,” Sadler said, before adding she researched how the measure had been implemented in other localities.
The Goochland County online checkbook served as Sadler’s inspiration for how the tool should operate for James City County residents.
At the end of the day, Sadler said, the tool is being released with the purpose of showing county residents where their money is going to work for them.
“It’s not our money,” Sadler said. “It’s the people’s money.”
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