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Case Study: Improving citizen engagement through a cloud-based land records management system

Josh LaRussa is the Register of Deeds Clerk for Chester County, South Carolina. He runs a lean operation and is the only county employee who registers deeds, although he has cross-trained others to cover for him in case he is unavailable. About two years ago, Avenu’s Clearview GRIDS software system started to make Josh’s job easier. GRIDS is a cloud-based record-indexing solution that delivers functionality and peace of mind to those responsible for maintaining all current and historic land records for a county.

Learn what life was like for the Chester County Clerk’s Office before Clearview GRIDS, and how this solution transformed their office.

Following the transformation, Josh LaRussa stated, “Our citizens are happy with the convenience of being able to search online which has saved our staff considerable time and effort.”

Chester County, SC Clerk’s Office

Case Study: Digitizing 185 years of Records for the Monroe Co. Coroner’s Office

Nestled in the Poconos, 90 miles from New York City, the historic county has seen significant growth over the last couple decades. Pennsylvania also has one of the longest record retention requirements for coroner’s offices. Storing, preserving, and accessing these documents has become a logistical challenge. The county needed to rent more space to accommodate the additional 1,700 records a year, these documents were subject to decay, and it could take weeks to access them. When Tomas Yanac, Jr. was elected as the county coroner in 2017, he saw this problem and new they needed to digitize county records.

In the Spring of 2021, the coroner’s office found out that Avenu’s Digital Processing Services team was already scanning documents for other departments in the county. They jumped at the opportunity to utilize the DPS services, and the process began.

Avenu digitized roughly 481,000 pages and 31,650 case files. This included historical documents dating back to 1837 that had to be handled with care. All these documents were preserved so that they could be searched and accessed digitally. Now when members of the public need files, they can accessed in seconds instead of weeks without any risk of damage to the documents.

Learn the steps taken to digitize almost a half million pages, and how this transformed how the coroner’s office serves the public.

Monroe County, PA Coroner’s Office

Five Ways Avenu Maximizes Your Short-Term Rental Compliance

Are you experiencing a rapid growth in your Short-Term Rental (STR) community? It can be a challenge to keep up with monitoring, licensing, permitting, and overall tax collection. And non-compliant STRs also bring about neighborhood complaints, like safety, noise, trash, and parking, just to name a few.

As a local government leader, you need a comprehensive solution to help discover, identify, register, and collect all revenue from existing and unknown STRs in your community.

Avenu Insights & Analytics provides a Short-Term Rental monitoring, compliance, and Full-Service administration solution. An intuitive and easy to use software solution that evaluates your entire STR community and identifies those that are not in compliance. We help recover funds from newly discovered STRs and receive, post, and reconcile all STR filings and fee payments.

Learn the five ways Avenu helps maximize your STR compliance.

Contact Avenu today for a free customized dashboard for your community and see how we can bring your community’s Short-Term Rental properties into compliance, in short order.

Cybercrime: Enemy at the Gate

Everyone thinks they are prepared for a cyberattack until they are attacked. As technology advances so have the skills of hackers and data miners who continue to become more sophisticated and malicious using a variety of hard to detect methods to gain access to your network. 2021 saw an incredible surge in cyberattacks across the country. With more employees working remotely and working outside their office networks, IT security is more important than ever.

Avenu’s team of experts, Roger Murphy and Mike Poth, shared decades of experience protecting jurisdictions in our recent webinar.

The webinar covered:

  • Basics of Cybercrime and methods used to gain access to your network
  • How to know when you’re being attacked
  • Stopping an attack and techniques to restore and recover data
  • Two real-world case study examples of ransomware in local government

To learn how Avenu helps protects jurisdictions from cyber-attacks and modernize their IT infrastructure, check out our recent case study on our partnership with California’s Hayward Area Recreation and Park District.

Case Study: Protecting California’s Largest Recreation District

The Hayward Area Recreation and Park District provides recreation services for over 300,000 residents across six jurisdictions near San Francisco, CA. It encompasses a 104 square-mile area, includes over 20 miles of hiking, and even the state’s oldest Japanese garden. Recently, it realized its IT system was woefully inadequate.

After an extensive search, The Park District chose Avenu to help solve its IT challenges. The decision was driven by Avenu’s tremendous amount of experience with municipal clients, and the need for a partner that could take a comprehensive view of the IT environment.

The initial wave of the partnership included updating all the employee’s computers and software. Through a collaborative approach, the relationship has grown to include replacing the entire network across twenty-two different buildings.

The Park District’s James Wheeler summarizes his experience with Avenu in this way: “I think the beauty of working with Avenu is that if I have a concern, I can express it. Avenu is very professional and very responsive. Our board is very happy with what they’ve been doing, and our employees appreciate that they have up-to-date equipment. It makes them feel valued. The Avenu employees we’ve had onsite are really great people to work with who are very smart and passionate about what they do. They care about our agency. They seem to genuinely care about protecting us, making sure we are getting the best deals on computer equipment, and doing everything the right way.”

Learn how a partnership with Avenu can modernize your IT infrastructure and help protect your jurisdiction from cybercrime.

Hayward Area Recreation & Park District, CA

 

National Economic Outlook for 2022

On this episode, we are joined by Dr. Leo Feler, an Economist with the UCLA Anderson Forecast for an economic outlook for 2022.

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Dr. Feler produces the UCLA Anderson Forecast U.S. macroeconomic forecast. He is an accomplished economist who received his Ph.D. in economics from Brown University; his M.A. in international policy from Stanford University; and his B.A. in economics and international relations from Stanford University.

His update includes the GDP, inflation, unemployment, manufacturing, housing trends, tourism and more. His insight into markets across the country provides a helpful tool for local governments to understand what these economic indicators mean for them.

This discussion with Dr. Feler was taken from our show Local Government Insights: Modernizing Government Leadership. If you want to hear more episodes like this one, check us out on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

If you don’t use Apple Podcasts or Spotify, you can find every episode here.

The Top Four Challenges State & Local Governments Face in 2022

As we start moving towards to a post-pandemic state, we need to prepare for the top challenges state and local governments are facing in 2022. Avenu’s CEO, Paul Colangelo, spends a great deal of time working with government leaders across the country and has a keen understanding of the challenges that lie ahead.

Learn more about the insight Paul has gained and shares from a recent interview.

What are common challenges being faced by state and local governments today?

1. Human Capital

Finding people with the right skill set to replace an aging workforce is one of the biggest problems in our industry. In many cases, state and local governments have more jobs than applicants. There is a rising number of employees who are retiring or approaching retirement and the baby boomer population is far larger than the younger generation behind to replace it.

Viable strategies for the government sector include competing with the private sector for talent and to consider looking outside their local geography.  Replacing employees who hold critical institutional knowledge requires finding people with the right skill set and ability to learn versus having tenured experience. Of course, this means providing a stringent program that thoroughly educates, trains and equips them to be successful in their role.

Both strategies require preparing for a hybrid or remote workforce. COVID-19 forced people to adjust to working remotely, but as we transition into a post-pandemic state, much of the workforce has preferred the hybrid work model. The pandemic ushered-in the remote workforce and leaders understand that it is here to stay. While the pandemic imposed the remote or hybrid economy, it was going to happen anyway with technology enabling this capability.

The good news is that numerous studies show that remote workers are more productive. According to a survey by Airstriker, researchers found that on average, telecommuters “worked 1.4 more days every month, or 16.8 more days every year than people who worked in an office. The study found that working from home not only benefits employees by eliminating their daily commutes, it also increases productivity and leads to healthier lifestyles.”

2. Digital Transformation

Much of government is still weighed down by paper and by antiquated processes that are not efficient for their staff nor convenient for citizens. Part of the challenge posed by the coronavirus pandemic was its impact on workflow. Social distancing regulations and health concerns shut down government offices and interrupted daily operations. Almost overnight, governments had to adapt to a remote workforce needing digital access to documents, databases, and vital IT infrastructures.

That’s why building a crisis-resistant digital government makes a difference. First, government agencies must have a digital strategy. Those that had a strategic plan in place for shifting to, implementing or expanding digital operations could effectively adapt to the challenges of COVID-19

Digital workflows and storing documents electronically save employees time to access what they need to do their job and enables government employees to track a project’s progress, automatically notify the correct people once a milestone is reached and create reminders, so tasks are not stalled due to interdepartmental miscommunication. Digital forms, filled out by the public and employees, automatically populate databases with information, reducing the need for manual data entry.

Digital transformation also let’s organizations better serve their constituents by providing them with 24/7 access to information and forms that they can complete when and where convenient for them. Citizens are accustomed to intuitive and efficient services they receive from the private sector and expect from their government.

3. Alternative Sources of Revenue

Governments are responsible for providing vital services to their constituents and being good stewards of the taxes they legislate and are challenged with looking for alternative sources of revenue. Often times, through compliance and auditing, and through more efficient tax/license administration programs they can find the additional revenue simply by collecting taxes that are being underpaid. Across the country, local governments have found that automation could provide a much-needed boost in efficiency, and even unlock hidden revenue. That’s because automation can transform costly, time-consuming, and error-prone manual labor tasks, like data entry and paper filing, into quick and efficient automatic processes

In today’s world there is data mining software and web-crawler technology that helps perform gap analysis between current revenues in specific tax base against total revenues owed in addressable market. Automated tax and license administration programs makes it easier for businesses to pay their taxes and reduces human error on how much they owe. Compliance and auditing programs can also uncover taxpayers who are mistakenly underpaying as well as discover businesses who may not be paying at all or may be paying the wrong jurisdiction. Certainly, business licenses and short-term rentals are very popular areas that many governments are focusing their efforts, but it is important for officials to think outside the box and look at every type of local tax that is collected.

4. Increase Citizen Engagement

In 2020, it was vital for governments to focus on the essential services that citizens needed. Now that we are rounding the corner from the pandemic, it’s important to increase the ways and frequency that we engage with citizens. Technology and social media are great ways to connect with citizens and promote community programs and activities.

What do you see on the horizon that state and local governments should prepare for or get excited about?

Ransomware is increasing at an alarming rate and cybersecurity is a critical topic that needs to be addressed in all organizations. It is important not only to secure and protect your data and infrastructure, but it is also necessary to have a disaster recovery plan in place and ready to go should something happen. If you wait after the fact, it’s too late.

The pandemic taught everyone many lessons on how to evaluate business operations, managing work/life balance, and how to prepare for unexpected disasters. I think reinventing the workforce is not only something governments are embracing but something that we will find great benefit in as we tap into a wider array of talent.

Looking at ways to connect with constituents and increase citizen engagement more broadly is something we must embrace, and the way technology is evolving certainly makes it easier to meet the expectations of modern citizens.

And of course. undergoing digital transformation. This will help governments execute their mission and provide services more efficiently, transparently, and cost-effectively. It’s a win-win for government and the people they serve.

 

Lessons in Public Administration from the Legendary Merrett Stierheim

On this episode, we are joined by legendary public administrator Merrett Stierheim.

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Merrett Stierheim started as a government intern and rose to become the Manager of what was the largest Commission/Manager government in the United States, not once but twice.

In this episode of Local Government Insights, we find out how he did it, what advice he has for those interested in rising in the ranks of local government, and what he sees as the biggest challenges facing anyone today who serves in public administration. This episode includes his encounters with three U.S. Presidents and the Queen of England and much more.

This discussion with Merret was taken from our show Local Government Insights: Modernizing Government Leadership. If you want to hear more episodes like this one, check us out on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

If you don’t use Apple Podcasts or Spotify, you can find every episode here.

Short-Term Rental Solutions Helps Communities Increase Revenue and Efficiency

Short-term rental listings are expected to grow by nearly 21% in 2022. However, localities are finding it harder to effectively monitor and tax these properties.

The fragmented market (125+ platforms) makes it nearly impossible for government leaders to monitor and identify 100% of listings while maintaining compliance. At the same time, owners continue to skirt short-term rental occupancy taxes that go toward schools, fire departments and other important community services.

We recently spoke with the Director of Community Services, Gustavo Roman from the City of College Station, TX to discuss his approach to addressing the gap in Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue the city was experiencing.

In summary we covered some of the outcomes of their approach that included:

  • Establishing a Short-Term Rental Ordinance
  • Identifying over 400 non-licensed STR’s in first 4 months
  • Uncovering over $100K in newfound Occupancy Tax Revenue
  • Establishing a 24/7 Hotline & Portal for Citizens
  • Creation of a “level playing field” for all Hotel and STR operators

If you are interested in gaining a better understanding of what YOUR short-term rental community looks like and where it’s trending, we’d like to send you a custom dashboard comprised of data from more than 100+ STR websites.

 

 

Helping Local Governments Prepare for Natural Disasters

On this episode, we are joined by Robert Pesapane of FEMA.

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Robert is an Emergency Management professional with over 10 years of state and federal government experience. He currently serves as the Director of the Recovery Division for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) where he is responsible for providing guidance, leadership and oversight to state and local governments in an effort to help them recover from all disasters.

He provides valuable insight on what it looks like for a jurisdiction to prepare for, face, and recover from a disaster.

This discussion with Robert Pesapane was taken from our show Local Government Insights: Modernizing Government Leadership. If you want to hear more episodes like this one, check us out on
Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

If you don’t use Apple Podcasts or Spotify, you can find every episode
here.