TWINSBURG: Loren Sengstock is passionate about government finances.
His eyes light up. His hands begin moving. And he starts going on about revenue, expenses and fund balances.
Sengstock, 60, a retired government finance director who has worked in Macedonia and Pepper Pike, wants to share that passion with others.
Building on Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel’s idea of creating “an army of citizen auditors,” Sengstock has launched a new website, www.citizenauditorohio.com, designed to educate the average taxpayer about where to find government financial documents, how to decipher them and how to put together spreadsheets to spot trends.
The site features some financial breakdowns that Sengstock has already done for many Summit County communities.
He also is holding a free public forum from 1 to 3 p.m. today at the Twinsburg Public Library, 10050 Ravenna Road, to talk about his effort, which focuses on teaching people the basics.
And he’s doing all this for free.
“I’ve always had a desire to somehow take the mystery and the intrigue out of government finance reporting,” said the affable and talkative Sengstock, who is confined to an electronic wheelchair because of polio.
Taxpayers should ask questions about where their money is going, and they’ll be armed to do so with the financial data, he said.
Too many people rely on the government to watchdog itself, he said.
Sengstock, who lives in Twinsburg, said local governments should be required to produce five-year forecasts like schools and detail plans for fund balances.
He added that he’s got no ax to grind and isn’t trying to cause trouble for government leaders.
Sengstock said he believes in a witticism a former boss used to say: “Government is simple. Men make it complicated.”
“And I know there’s some woman out there who’s going to say women can straighten this out for you,” he added quickly.
Earlier this year, Mandel announced a legislative effort to require state and local governments to put all financial records online so regular citizens can monitor spending and identify potential abuse.
The goal is to promote transparency and create citizen auditors.
Sengstock said he was inspired by that call.
Mandel, a Republican, said he’s gotten positive reactions from around the state about his effort. But he’s unaware of anyone who has responded like Sengstock.
“I think it’s terrific what he’s doing,” he said.
Mandel also offered to help Sengstock.
As for today’s forum, Sengstock said he’s not sure how many people will come. He hopes there will be 10 to 15.
“If I get two, I’ll be happy,” he said.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.