Sacramento Improves the Fee Collection Process

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Managing a community’s fees and charges can be time consuming; in some cases, just keeping track of each department’s fees can be a major undertaking. The City of Sacramento, California, made an initial effort to address these challenges in 2006 by developing a database of the permits, fees, fines, and license charges the city collected. But while it was a good first step, this initial attempt to create a central repository for all city related fees was incomplete.

First of all, the initial database did not capture all of Sacramento’s fees; it wasn’t able to include all charges, so city employees had to look in several different places to find fees and updates to fee amounts and fee structures. Citizens who were looking for fee rates and payment schedules still had to contact various city departments to locate updated information. Fees and charges that were separate from the central database would require duplicate data entry. Another problem was that responding to hundreds of California Public Records Act requests a year often took staff away from their day-to-day duties, leading to delays in updating the database.

To address this challenge, Sacramento’s finance and information technology departments worked together to enhance the database. The project, launched in 2013, had the goal of consolidating all existing city fee systems into a single, better-managed repository for information, providing more transparency to citizens and better support to internal users, all in a more user-friendly manner. Linking such a system to the Sacramento’s current finance system would also make the city more efficient.

The city contracted with a consulting firm to develop a “dot-net technology platform” that was capable of providing a user-friendly front-end to the database. It could be accessed and easily navigated by citizens and organizations with California Public Records Act. The public interfacing capability was embedded within the existing content management system, and the existing fee and charge system was then re-engineered on the back end, and an interface with Sacramento’s financial system was created. Finally, to ensure accuracy, the city instituted policies that required an annual audit of all fees and changes on the database.

For more information about Sacramento, California’s fee collection click here.

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