On November 10, the U.S. Senate passed legislation, H.R. 674, repealing the 3% Withholding Law, that was part of the 2005 Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act (TIPRA). The Senate’s version was amended, in a noncontroversial manner, and the amended legislation will need to be voted on again in the U.S. House of Representatives – likely sometime this week. The House passed the original bill in late October. Following the House’s ‘re’ passage of the bill, President Obama will sign the repeal legislation into law.
Could encouraging citizens’ use of electronics be an effective means for cities and counties to deal with their economic woes?
Consider the following facts:
- As the end of 2011 nears, cities are struggling with cuts to budgets, programs, and services; and, even, furloughs and layoffs of staff.
- More and more citizens are utilizing the latest electronic gadgets (iPhone, iPad, or Android) to get their news, read or listen to a favorite book, trade on the stock market, or use GPS functions for directions.
City Web Portals: City web portals are an efficient way to handle applications and requests. Citizens benefit by no longer having to find time to phone or visit city hall. There is no need to track email correspondence sent to a city department to apply for a permit or license, or a request that the city take care of some graffiti in the neighborhood park. Communities benefit when, from the city web site, applications are completed by engaging the citizens to do the data entry, not a city staff person. An on-line payment via credit card makes it convenient for both citizens and their communities. Think of it as a virtual city hall.
Engaged Citizens are Happy Citizens: As a concerned citizen, does it drive you crazy when you see something that requires the city’s attention? Have you sent emails, phoned city hall, and yet the situation does not change? Visiting the city’s web portal can simplify life by making requests and receiving updates all through one site. Cities can automate requests from the back-end as it routes to the proper official within minutes, not days.
Communication Boards: In addition to the traditional approach of citizens attending council meetings or town halls to present a request, cities should consider offering communication boards. These on-line bulletin boards create chat communities to share ideas initiated by citizens or officials. On-line surveys or opinion polls offer valuable information from a larger base of the community which enhances opportunities for better decision making. Boards can also be used to find a few interested citizens for an effective on-line committee.
Consider FTG Connect®! FastTrackGov® is the avenue you and your community should consider to create a powerful team. This subscription-based solution for a web portal assists cities in engaging their citizens on-line via their web sites with low overhead expenses. FastTrackGov allows a community to configure its applications to the city ordinances. The web site portal will accept payments for licenses, permits, or other fees. On-line messaging can be tracked and reviewed by both officials and citizens. To learn more, visit www.fasttrackgov.com.
St. Louis, Missouri (October 13, 2011) – Mitchell Humphrey, a provider of solutions and services to the public sector for over 34 years and a Microsoft® Silver Independent Software Vendor, launches FastTrackGov on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. This upgrade to FastTrackGov enables many user interface functionalities and improvements within the newest version of CRM (Constituent Relationship Management).
FastTrackGov is a suite of products designed specifically for government and intended to facilitate communication between government and their constituents. It provides for a completely integrated organization and can be used by county governments, municipal governments, government agencies, special districts, and taxing authorities. Whether a citizen needs to apply for a new business license, request an inspection, complain about a pothole, or pay their fees, they can use FastTrackGov and the FTG Connect® Citizen Portal to easily communicate with their local government.
With the CRM 2011 product release in February 2011, Microsoft has introduced dialogs, built-in charting, and dashboard functionality. Within CRM 2011, Mitchell Humphrey has developed FastTrackGov using the newest technology, features and functions. These features include the new Microsoft Office Ribbon® interface, detailed attachments, advanced field-level security and new audit capabilities. FastTrackGov’s new Microsoft Office Ribbon UI provides a more exciting and logical way for users to discover features and functions – enhancing their overall performance. In addition to FastTrackGov’s attachments capability, CRM 2011 provides document management integration into Microsoft SharePoint®.
With the delivery of high performance technology, Mitchell Humphrey offers an array of FastTrackGov services to meet the specific needs of each government organization and their citizens. “The familiarity of CRM provides the best possible user experience for our FastTrackGov clients and their citizens. Plus, we are able to offer them the choice of a traditional on-premise deployment or the agility and speed of the cloud,” stated Kim Schaefer, President and Chief Operating Officer for Mitchell Humphrey.
“Our partner, Mitchell Humphrey, has a long-standing reputation for delivering high-value, low cost, and cutting-edge software solutions to public sector organizations throughout North America,” said Amir Capriles, Senior Director for Microsoft Dynamics® CRM and ERP U.S. Public Sector. “In choosing to develop their FastTrackGov solutions on our CRM 2011 platform, Mitchell Humphrey validates our strategy of offering a platform that enables our partners to easily design applications that meet the needs of specific markets. Through our partnership with Mitchell Humphrey, we have been able to provide countless benefits to many government organizations.”
Since 1977, Mitchell Humphrey has been providing software and services to clients in both the public and private sectors. Today, clients across North America benefit from our solutions in citizen services, accounting, human resources/payroll, community development, and cashiering.
Mitchell Humphrey recently participated in the 97th Annual ICMA (International City/County Management Association) Conference & Exposition in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Approximately 3,000 participants attended sessions on the “new” normal – creating a technological environment for communities to begin easily interacting with their citizens.
The ICMA Conference was an avenue for city and county officials to learn more about streamlining citizen requests through a web portal. This tool allows a citizen to log a complaint on-line about anything from an abandoned house where the grass has not been mowed to graffiti in the park. The city automates the request in the back-end as it is routed to the proper official and updates are made within minutes, not days. Citizens can then receive updates by visiting the portal.
Another great technology showcased was the ability to conduct on-line surveys to determine the popularity of an idea. In addition to the traditional approach of citizens attending council meetings or town halls to present a request, officials were encouraged to consider offering communication boards. This has shown to be a great way to enhance meetings or to find interested citizens for an effective on-line committee. Participants were reminded that having information from more of their constituents would make it easier to make good, informed decisions.
ICMA was a perfect venue for Mitchell Humphrey. We introduced FastTrackGov® to city managers and administrators. This solution helps government organizations use technology to better connect with and serve their constituents. The FTG Connect® web portal allows cities to accept payments for licenses, permits, or other fees. FastTrackGov allows a community to configure its applications to the city ordinances. On-line messaging can be used to track conversations by both officials and citizens. To learn more, visit www.fasttrackgov.com.
How would you like to start imagining yourself with more time, money and efficiency? Better yet – can you see yourself ‘error proof’ and able to access valuable information at the drop of a dime?
Well, that is exactly what our 25 yearlong client, Erie County, did!
Erie County has discovered that giving the ‘green light’ to Go Green has saved their taxpayers money, improved public service and, overall, added time and value to their county efforts. In the article, Erie County, Erie schools going green by saving paper and cash, written by Erie Times-News, the Erie School District saved almost 4 million sheets of paper and $22,000 in the last school year, just by discouraging unnecessary printing. The county also plans to save around $6,000 a year on ledger paper alone, just by switching to eStatements. These savings do not include the cost savings for printers, toner, ink, or the routinely average 200 page-long council agendas which are now viewed mainly electronically.
According to Reduce.org, the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year. Multiply that by the number of employees you have, and can you see how going paperless could save your business money?
Switching over to eStatements also saves the county courts a significant amount of time, since banks automatically match cleared checks. And that’s not all. Erie County has improved its public service by digitalizing court, property, and estate records to be accessed by the public, free of charge, at the courthouse.
You can decide if Going Paperless = More $$$ + Better Service. Put that extra time and money toward more important things, because you, your company, your employees, and your citizens deserve it!
For more information about going paperless using Mitchell Humphrey software, call 1-800-237-0028 or visit us at www.mitchellhumphrey.com or www.fasttrackgov.com. To learn more about our products and services, visit our online video today.
From Tim Kiely:
Peter Koht, Economic Development Coordinator for the City of Santa Cruz, CA, presented “Get Involved: Stay Informed” at the 2009 Gov 2.0 Summit. The presentation focused on how Santa Cruz is using social media tools to interactively communicate with it’s citizens to garner feedback and reset expectations on what services the city can and cannot provide as a result of the current State of California budget crisis.
While his presentation focused on his city’s issues and approach, the methods and tools used can certainly be effective for municipal governments across the United States to address issues effecting their citizens.
We invite you to watch the video and provide feedback on ways your municipality is using Social Media to communicate with citizens.
From Kim Schaefer, CPA:
FastTrackGov conducted an on-line survey of municipal governments across the United States in an effort to assess the level at which these organizations are implementing collaborative strategies to improve efficiency and transparency while providing timely and relevant information to their citizens.
We found that two-thirds of our respondents provide some on-line citizen services, with the most popular being Citizen Requests/Complaint Tracking. Over one-half of the organizations have a Citizen Request/Complaint Tracking portal in operation currently, with another one-third planning to implement one in the future.
Of the organizations that provide for on-line submittal, parks and recreation and pet licensing also provided for on-line payments in all cases. Permitting and occupational and business licenses allowed on-line payments in approximately one-third of the organizations allowing on-line submittal.
While on-line citizen services are important to these organizations, very few have implementation projects in progress currently and only approximately ten percent have plans to implement on-line citizen services in the next twelve months. The primary obstacle sited is a lack of budget. When budget dollars are tightened new technologies are often the first to be cut. The best way around this is to find technologies with proven return on investment by looking to other organizations to see what they are doing.
Many are also looking into new, subscription-based offerings to provide the technological advantage without requiring the capital investment necessary to run traditional software applications.
DETAILED SURVEY FINDINGS:
The majority of respondents provide their citizens with on-line citizen services.
Do you currently provide your citizens with a portal on your website through which they can access on-line services and/or complete on-line transactions?
Citizen requests and pet licensing are the most popular on-line services at 89% and 58% respectively with building permits and business licensing each generating significant visibility with approximately 50% of organizations currently providing these on-line.
Indicate categories for which you currently provide on-line accessible application and/or renewal forms.
Nearly two-thirds of citizen requests and complaints can be submitted on-line at respondent organizations. While the respondents providing parks and recreation provided for approximately 40% of those requests to be handled on-line.
Indicate categories for which forms can be completed and submitted on-line.
Of those organizations providing on-line form submittal, many also provided for on-line payments for certain services. For example, 100% of the parks and recreation requests and pet licenses submitted on-line provided for on-line payment.
Indicate categories for which on-line payments can be submitted along with completed on-line forms.
Over one-third of organizations responding to the survey currently provide some level of on-line citizen service. Of those organizations that do not currently provide on-line citizen services, over half said they had future plans for adding them.
Do you provide your citizens with a single, on-line location where they can request services, report problems, issue complaints, and complete citizen satisfaction surveys?
The current state of the economy is certainly reflected in the current lack of implementation projects and the absence of projects in the next twelve months. However, there is a general optimism that as Gov 2.0 becomes more prevalent and the return on investment of these projects is clearly identified, this technology will continue to be adopted.
Please indicate your current level of on-line service adoption for each of the areas listed.