Magazine article Government Finance Review

Electronic Information, Billing, and Collection: Customer Service and Cost Savings

Magazine article Government Finance Review

Electronic Information, Billing, and Collection: Customer Service and Cost Savings

Article excerpt

Editor's note: The Johnson County Kansas, Treasurer 's Office received GFOA's Award for Excellence in the E-Government and Technology category in 2006.

The Electronic Information, Billing, and Collection Program developed by the Treasurer's Office of Johnson County Kansas, offers public finance professionals the ability to improve investment capabilities and operational capacity at a cost savings. This program is an innovative concept that enhances overall customer service by providing detailed account information and eliminating virtually all manual payment processing. This program can be replicated or adapted for any accounts receivable billing and collecting situation.

IMPETUS FOR DEVELOPMENT OF THE PROGRAM

The original idea and design of the program came from input from the Treasurer's employees and feedback from mortgage and title companies. Johnson County's population has consistently grown at a rate of approximately 10,000 people annually, with a current population of slightly more than 500,000 citizens. Due to this growth, the volume of tax bills to be processed manually was increasing dramatically. Phone call volumes were growing also due to the lack of current billing and payment information available online. In order to handle this increasing workload, the Treasurer's Office used temporary labor and offered substantial amounts of overtime to staff. Personnel costs for overtime and temporary labor were expensive and placed an unnecessary burden on the taxpayers of Johnson County By 2003, the Treasurer's Office determined there was a need to examine alternatives to its current methods.

The Treasurer's Office approach concentrated on fulfilling three main goals for improving services to the county's taxpayers while easing workload and costs for the county. The first goal was to improve processing efficiency and enhance the expeditious handling of items received in the Treasurer's Office. The second goal was to improve the functionality and appearance of the Treasurer's Web site to accommodate requests from citizens, mortgage companies, title companies, and others for expanded tax billing and payment information along with an updated look that promoted ease of use. The final goal was to place the Treasurer's Office in a position to accommodate future growth without increasing proportionately staff size or adding financial burden to the taxpayers of Johnson County.

PROGRAM INITIATION

In September 2003, a three-prong project plan was created: providing information, billing, and collection.

Providing Information: The Treasurer's Office staff was receiving numerous calls from citizens and companies requesting billing and payment information. It was determined that providing this information in an easily accessible manner on the Treasurer's Web site would allow the public to research this information themselves, thereby increasing the timeliness and accuracy of the information. It was also determined this could substantially reduce the redundant call volume to a more manageable level.

URL form posting was used to pass account information to the payment vendors electronically, thus ensuring taxpayers pay an acceptable amount on the correct account. This process allowed tax account and payment information to be transferred to the vendor's payment site as a URL address when the taxpayer links to one of our vendor payment sites from the Treasurer's Web site. The information appearing in the URL address is then used to populate the payment screen with property identification and acceptable payment amount options. This allowed the taxpayer to verify the accuracy of their account information and forced them to choose an acceptable payment amount.

Daily updating of payment information for the Treasurer's tax system and Web site is enabled through the use of e-mails and FTP files that are sent to the county and uploaded into our tax system. This uploaded data is then used to update the information available to the public on the Treasurer's Web site. …

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