City councils go paperless to reduce costs, improve collaboration

May 13th, 2013 | Posted by Kevin Corley in Uncategorized

Electronic document management is providing cities across the nation with a wide variety of benefits, from reduced paper dependency and needs for manual administrative tasks to lowered demands for storage space. But perhaps one of the main advantages to these solutions is that council members are now able to conduct meetings and communicate in more effective ways, as records are more easily accessible through online portals.

The South Jersey Times reported that Gloucester County's recent freeholder meeting would have previously required more than 3,000 sheets of paper, but thanks to a new digital system, those documents didn't need to be printed. While traditionally, all ordinances, resolutions and minutes had to be printed and distributed to seven freeholders, county administrators and the board clerk, the news source revealed that recent investments in document imaging eliminated that need. As part of the paperless initiative, the county deployed electronic tablets for all freeholders to view records, saving an estimated $500 over just one year.

Easier sharing of information
According to The Dispatch, North Carolina's Lexington City Council also recently took steps to go paperless and distributed iPads during a budget workshop meeting. City Manager Alan Carson explained that the city has long had a plan to go paperless as part of an overall goal to be more environmentally-friendly. He noted that transporting boxes of files for meetings had become a burden.

"It also helps with communicating with the council by keeping everything all in one place," Carson told The Dispatch.

Carson explained to the source that whereas before, he had to track down individual freeholders to supply them with information, now he can immediately email the necessary documents to members. The convenience of electronic communications have enabled the county to save considerable time and fuel quicker decisions between meetings.

While the town had to consider costs for the new iPads in making this transition, council members are adamant that savings will outweigh these expenditures. The Dispatch reported that the purchase price for the devices was $7,425 total, or $495 each. Additionally, the town spent $11,520 on new software to enable members to view the electronic documents. However, these paperless efforts are expected to save the city $13,150 a year in printing and labor costs.

As more cities look to keep up with today's technological advances, an electronic document management system can have a transformative impact on operations and budgeting.

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