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Wednesday

August 2014

20

What's next when it comes to technology?

Local municipalities use technology to simplify things for residents

What's next? It's a question that many clerks and treasurers ask, especially at the start of a new year.

Some communities, like the Town of Lisbon, are welcoming residents who, for the first time ever, can pay for their taxes online. Some communities, like the Village of Pewaukee, are rolling out a few changes this January. Others, like the City of Delafield, are leaps and bounds ahead of their neighbors. With so much new technology, we have to ask: What's next?

Town of Lisbon

Town of Lisbon Treasurer Nicole Lipske said that she's used online payments where she lives and it made sense to bring that option to residents in Lisbon, too.

"We're often asked about credit card payments or debit card payments so we thought it would be a good time to look into it," Lipske said.

Now, residents can hop online and find the link to pay their taxes right on the TownOfLisbonWI.com homepage. They'll still have the option to pay as they traditionally would, too - in person or through the mail.

The town is using Point and Pay to process electronic payments. Point and Pay does collect a fee for each service and that money goes directly to the company - not to the Town of Lisbon. It costs an extra $1.50 for an eCheck to be processed, for example.

Lipske said that there are only a handful of people who are using it this year because many assume you have to use a credit card. However, folks can use credit, debit or eCheck to make a payment to the Town of Lisbon.

"I think it will take a little bit of time before people catch on," Lipske said.

Village of Pewaukee

Village of Pewaukee Clerk Nancy Zastrow put in a few requests to the board last year and those measures should be coming to fruition in this month.

"Currently, we are typing out our alcohol or bartending licenses and handwriting our dog licenses," Zastrow said.

That'll change soon, though, and new licensing software will make it easier for village administrators to create licenses and maintain or report databases. The licensing software is expected to be in full use by the end of January.

In-house payroll will be managed beginning in January, too. Regular residents may not notice it, but the village is also bringing its payroll in-house. They used to send the work to a firm in Madison, but it was complicated. Access was limited, it wasn't directly synched to their general ledger and they couldn't see changes in real time.

"When I first got there, I had to handle a workman's comp and I didn't have access to even view the employee's address," Zastrow said.

The Village of Pewaukee also expects to see their municipal code updated and posted online. Previously, to view specific ordinances, residents had to submit requests and get sections emailed or mailed to them. Only recently created ordinances were available online.

They're contracting with Municode, who is the nation's largest, most experienced codifier. Now, residents can search for specific parts in the village's ordinances and view it directly from their computers.

"It just makes it easier. If someone wants to look up, for example, ordinances about dogs, they can just search for that. They just click it and read it," Zastrow said.

City of Delafield

City of Delafield Clerk/Treasurer Gina Gresch said that their changes in technology over the past two years came easily. Because of City Hall's move in 2010, they were able to take advantage of a new opportunities and new technologies. New sound systems, for example, seem to be the most popular.

"The feedback has been great. I've actually been stopped by people in the grocery store who want to thank me for finally making the meetings easy to hear," Gresch said.

They've already been paperless since 2008 and have since found several clever ways of sharing them. They can project them onto the screen, put them on the TV or upload them online. Actually, they can play something different on each of there six televisions during a common council meeting.

"We knew we wanted to be able to project the same packet that the council was looking at, so other people could see the same thing," Gresch said.

That meeting, with documents and details, could be broadcast on Channel 25. Or it could be burned onto a DVD and scheduled onto lobby televisions. They tried out streaming the meetings online, but there hasn't been enough interest for it to continue in 2013, according to Gresch.

In the meantime, residents will just have to settle for the television broadcasts, frequent website updates, Facebook pages and newsletters (newsletters which, by the way, are opened by 44-52 percent of residents).

"I think they're happy for now. Of course, if anyone has any ideas, I'd love to hear them; but for now, I think they're content," Gresch said.

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