Mon commission interested in government-spending website

MORGANTOWN — The Monongalia County Commission said it would like to be the first in the state to sign onto West Virginia Auditor JB McCuskey’s efforts to put details of government spending online.
McCuskey attended a recent work session with the commission to promote, which provides a “real-time accounting the state’s expenditures down to the checkbook level.”
“I talk a lot about how this isn’t anybody else’s money but the people’s, so this is really their information,” McCuskey said. “I think it’s really great that we have created a website that has neither my name or picture on it, because it isn’t mine, right? This is a website that is for you and it’s for your citizens.”
McCuskey explained that his office partnered with Opengov to build the site. He explained that scaled-down versions of the site will eventually be available for each county and municipality interested in participating. The commission plans to meet with representatives of Opengov to begin that process.
“What that does is several things. It gives citizens access to your spending. it gives our office real-time access to your financial data, which makes our audit costs go down because we don’t have to travel. It’s electronic and it’s real time, so that’s a win-win for both of us,” McCuskey said. “Lastly, it’s just good government.”
McCuskey explained that the cost of the initial website was about $300,000, but the localized versions will be available for less than $3,000. If the funds aren’t available locally, he said, “we’re going to offer to pay that too.” He went on to say that he expects the savings the site creates in the auditing process would likely be enough to fund a county’s initial investment.
Further, he said, the cost of responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests will be dramatically reduced as the data will be available in real time, searchable in a variety of ways – from department to revenue type – for anyone interested.
The site includes a number of standard features, plus a suite of additional tools that can be added for a fee. He described a feature that will allow for “citizen town halls” in which people can be invited to connect over the site for a presentation using the available data.
“I think this is really awesome,” McCuskey said. “And I think this is going to be a really fabulous tool for counties and municipalities.”