Bogged down by stacks of paper and administrative tasks that drain productivity, town councils and boards across the country are seeking electronic document management solutions. Not only do these tools allow for quicker access to files, but they also create less dependency on resources, minimize spending and reduce environmental impact.
The New Jersey Star-Ledger reported that Washington Township Councilman Chris Del Borrello recently proposed paperless council meetings to eliminate burdensome, inefficient tasks. To prove his point, Del Borrello hauled in three overflowing stacks of paperwork that would typically be involved in preparing for a meeting. The news source revealed that he cited a study written several years ago written by former township clerk Jennica Bileci, which emphasized not only the resources that get wasted in paper-based meetings but also the time it takes to produce the packets. According to the source, he revealed that anywhere from 500 to 700 pages are used for each council agenda, which includes ordinances, resolutions and other related documents. This means that each council meeting uses approximately 6 percent of a tree. Not only that, but Bileci wrote that it can take clerks two to three hours to get paperwork in order for a gathering. However, the Star-Ledger noted that Bileci was adamant the same work could be completed in just 20 to 30 minutes if document imaging technology scanned files into a PDF format. Those documents could then be electronically distributed, and council members could view them on laptops during the meeting.
Convenience and flexibility
These paperless initiatives are spreading across the nation as the benefits become more apparent. The Cortez Journal reported that board members for Montezuma-Cortez School District in Colorado are now able to use iPads to retrieve information more easily. Superintendent Alex Carter is optimistic about the change.
"We decided it was time to go paperless with school board packets," he told the news source. "The paper packets were a big waste of energy, paper and money."
While the district spent about $6,000 for members' iPads, Carter is confident the devices will pay for themselves within two years, as the board has reduced the amount of paper, ink, postage and employee time need to compile the documents.
Jack Schuenemeyer, a third-year board member, told the Cortez Journal that the electronic system has been especially beneficial when he or another member is traveling, as all materials are now available on the website and fully searchable.
"Everyone seemed enthused about them," he stated to the source. "I think there was strong support for this change."
As more towns reap the inherent benefits of digital document management technologies, this trend will likely continue to spread.
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