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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.

Avenu Insights & Analytics Adds Public Sector Talent in California

Rachelle Arizmendi Joins Avenu Bringing a Life-Long Career of Service and Public Sector Experience to Make an Impact

FRESNO, Calif., April 19, 2022 (SEND2PRESS NEWSWIRE) — Avenu Insights & Analytics (Avenu) recently announced the addition of Rachelle Arizmendi as one of the company’s Government Industry Advisors. Rachelle joins Avenu as a native Californian with a life-long career in serving the public sector and numerous leadership positions.

“Keeping pace with the rapid changes in technology, increased citizen expectations, and budget shortfalls are challenges that all state and local governments are facing,” shared Avenu CEO, Paul Colangelo. “The addition of Rachelle Arizmendi helps bring direct industry experience to our client services team that strengthens how we deliver mission critical solutions to the governments we serve.

“Rachelle brings a wealth of public sector knowledge and success that will make a noticeable impact in how we solve challenges and offer creative solutions to our clients. Our key talent additions ensure that Avenu customers can continuously improve on, or in some cases completely reimagine their goals and capabilities in serving their communities.”

Rachelle was first elected to California’s Sierra Madre City Council in 2014 and re-elected in 2018. Her commitment and drive to improve the community led to being selected by her colleagues to serve as Mayor in 2017 and again in 2020. Currently, she is a California Governor appointee for the Department of Food & Agriculture Board and serves as the Board President of the Asian American Pacific Island Equity Alliance, Board Co-Chair of the National Coalition of Asian Pacific Association of Community Development, Board Secretary for Child360, and First Vice-President of the League of California’s Cities Women’s Caucus Board.

Additionally, Rachelle has dedicated herself to PACE (Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment) for the last 22 years, with the last six as Vice President and COO. PACE is a non-profit community development organization that serves over 40,000 people every year in areas of job training and employment, business development, environment & energy, affordable housing, and early childhood education.

When asked about her transition to Avenu, Rachelle responded, “Avenu is dedicated to helping state and local governments maximize revenue and optimize the way they operate. My life has been built around serving others and joining the team is truly an extension of that. I am fortunate to continue providing value to communities through our work here at Avenu.”

About Avenu Insights & Analytics:

Over 3,000 state and local governments have partnered with Avenu to drive positive results for their communities through software administration and compliance auditing solutions. Avenu’s comprehensive software solutions digitally transform government by modernizing processes, providing online access to records, and reducing costs. State and local governments also work closely with Avenu to increase revenue without raising taxes, streamline internal operations, and improve services by enhancing connectivity for constituents. Avenu is a portfolio company of Mill Point Capital.

To learn more, visit https://www.avenuinsights.com/

March California Policy Update

We are pleased to provide our March 2022 California Policy Update. This issue includes updates on Governor Newsom’s State of the State Address, the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act (currently being circulated for signatures for potential inclusion on the November 2022 Statewide ballot), and legislation by topic area that is currently going through the legislative process.

On March 8, Governor Gavin Newsom delivered his annual State of the State Address, going through a rundown of California’s successes and touting additional plans in furtherance of those accomplishments. Although distinct from his 2022-23 budget presentation, there was not much new information shared, and the speech felt akin to a pep talk or comparative analysis of California versus the nation with California coming out on top.

This update covers highlights from the Governor’s State of the State Address by topic.

Read the full California March Policy Update here.

Louisiana’s Solution to Tax Admin

The State of Louisiana needed a ‘one-stop shop’ for the entire Louisiana business community that reduced the burden of processing and filing paper returns for Sales and Use, Occupational License, & Hotel Tax.

Avenu implemented an E-file and pay portal and system implemented allowing:

  • Businesses to file and pay for single and multi-jurisdictional transactions across the state
  • Businesses to file Sales and Use, Occupational License and Hotel/Motel Tax returns
  • State & Parish Administrators ability to access and import returns into their individual Systems of Record

Since 2008, Avenu has filed 18 million returns and processed $14 billion in taxes.

Effective July 1,2020, the state mandated electronic filing for all Remote Sellers with sales activities in the Louisiana. In 6 months, Avenu provided two fully functional systems (integrated e-filing portal and a system of record).

For the Remote Sellers program since 2020, Avenu has filed 27K returns and processed $396 Million in Sales Tax Revenue.

Is your jurisdiction ready for that type of impact? Learn more by reaching out to us at succeed@avenuinsights.com.

Are Utility Franchise Fees Making 10% of Your Revenue?

Utility Franchise Fees can represent up to 10% of a local government’s annual revenue, so it is essential to understand what is truly going on within these payments. A Utility Franchise Fee is essentially rent being paid by a utility to a city or county for the use of their rights-of-way. The typical utilities that pay franchise fees are electric, natural gas, telephone, video/cable, waste hauler, and water utilities.

Depending on the state, the fee can either be state regulated or set at the local level. In either case, the local jurisdictions have the ability to verify payments from their utility providers by conducting audits.

Understanding where opportunities exist to increase compliance can be a difficult task. Technological advancements have become widespread in delivering certain utilities, so there are more fees for equipment, connections, service upgrades, premiums, penalties, and services that fall under the franchise.

Avenu has 30 years of auditing experience and we have performed thousands of utility audits. We are fluent with industry changes and understand the potential areas for misallocation, omission, and/or accounting mistakes.

We also stay ahead of issues such as deregulation or streaming content in telecommunications. The judicial and legislative activity they create may affect a utility’s gross receipts and your future franchise fee revenue

If your Utility Franchise Fee revenue isn’t being maximized, then it may be time to reach out to succeed@avenuinsights.com, and let Avenu help you maximize your revenue stream.

Treasury Releases Final ARPA Rule Providing Clearer Rules & More Flexibility

Common top of mind initiatives for state and local governments often includes modernizing technology, streamlining operations, and improving services for citizens. Of course, each of these initiatives requires funds…which may have just arrived.

On January 6, 2022, the U.S. Treasury Department (Treasury) released the Final Rule for the $350 billion in State and Local Fiscal Relief Funds provided by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). More than $245 billion has been distributed to governments since the ARPA was signed into law in March 2021.

This rule provides additional clarity to states and localities, including tribal and territorial governments, on what they can do with the substantial federal resources made available to them through the ARPA.

The ruling, effective April 1, 2022,
provides additional clarity
and flexibility on uses, including:
  • Capital expenditures.
  • Expanding public sector
    hiring and capacity.
  • Premium pay for essential works.
  • Broadening eligible broadband,
    water and sewer infrastructure.

Funds can be used to “address administrative needs caused or exacerbated by the pandemic, including addressing backlogs caused by shutdowns, increased repair or maintenance needs, and technology infrastructure to adapt government operations to the pandemic (e.g., video-conferencing software, data and case management systems.”

Additionally, the Treasury is also giving governments the option to put up to $10 million of their relief payments towards revenue losses, enabling them to spend the money on a broad range of general government expenses without jumping through administrative hoops outlined in an earlier version of the rule.

It’s important to remember that today’s citizens have the expectation for their governments to have modern and online services available to them. Avenu is helping 100s of local and state governments modernize their technology to web-based applications and use the Recovery Funds towards:

  • Digitizing Records to increase remote access to documents while safeguarding history
  • Simplifying the Tax & License Administration process (for all tax types) to increase compliance by providing citizens with a way to accurately pay their fees online
  • Automating jury selection and to streamline operations and improve the juror’s experience through Jury Administration
  • Providing instant access to records for Recorders, Clerks and Stakeholders through Records Management
  • IT Managed Solutions & Cybersecurity by utilizing program management options to secure high caliber talent that is up-to-date on the latest technologies

This is certainly a partial list of what can be accomplished with the funds but one that meets the challenges that so many jurisdictions across the country are facing.

The Final Rule will go into effect on April 1, 2022. However, state and local governments can choose to take advantage of the Final Rule’s new flexibilities and simplifications now, even ahead of the effective date.

Keep abreast regarding changes and updates to the Recovery Fund by signing up for official updates from the U.S. Treasurer.