Unsurprisingly, many governments continue to grapple with budget challenges halfway through 2021. In the State of the Cities 2021 report from the National League of Cities, municipalities reported the impact of the pandemic on their revenues. 41 percent of respondents reported a decline in general fund revenues and 17 percent reported this being one of the most critical issue they face.
The gradual reopening of the economy as vaccination rates across the U.S. increase will help as consumers and businesses begin to spend more and thereby boost tax revenues. But governments need to plan for long-term changes to how citizens choose where to live and invest. Leveraging technology is one way that governments can build for the post-pandemic realities.
An evolution that most governments will face – and can benefit from – is the fact that many consumers’ choice of where to live is now much less tied to where their employers are located. For those working in the knowledge economy – who tend to be more likely to invest in purchasing homes – some level of remote work will continue to be available. Some employers will use a hybrid model, where employees can come into offices when they want or need to. And many employers will stick to a “work from anywhere” policy, which means employees have real choice in choosing where they call home.
For governments, that means two important things. One, consumers will choose communities in part on how well those things governments provide are managed – infrastructure, amenities, etc. – as well as on how citizen-centric governments are. Two, lots of businesses that traditionally located near big employers – restaurants, service industries, etc. – now have potential markets in many more communities. And part of their location selection process is how easy it is to work with a government to set up their business there.
Both groups expect to be able to easily and simply conduct interactions and meet needs online. Think of our own consumer experiences – we bank, shop, and socialize online – often through our smartphones. When it comes to interacting with governments – consumers and businesses expect the same. The consumer moving to a community and applying for a permit to remodel a dream house expects to file that permit, and receive updates about it, online. The new store or restaurant that wants to open in that community to serve the increasing numbers of consumers working at home, expects to apply for required licenses online, and receive updates about needed renewals, reporting and more, online.
Governments adjusting to these trends need to consider technology for three important things. One, the ability to track workflows (say for permitting and licensing applications) that makes sure the process is as efficient as possible. Two, the ability to allow citizens and businesses to interact with a government online – easily and through intuitive interfaces. And three, the ability to empower remote government employees – for example, building inspectors – to complete their work outside of the office, making them more efficient and their jobs easier to do.
When technology is employed to do those things, it helps make processes more efficient, which will help save costs, and help with adjusting to revenue-challenged budgets. It also makes it easier for citizens and businesses to choose to move to a community. Those investments – in housing and real estate, as well as local economic activity – like shopping and recreation – all create tax and fee opportunities for governments, which can help grow revenues again.
Importantly, in an era of challenged budgets, government investments in technology need to be “smart” ones. Choosing software and applications that are flexible, scalable, and interoperable is key. Governments should not settle for standalone “smokestack” technology that will not interoperate with systems and process already in place. And the best choice is a platform that is flexible enough to meet a jurisdictions unique needs, be a cost-effective investment, and easily integrate so that it is ready to use quickly.
If your government needs to react to these changing trends and is ready to employ technology to help, we would love to talk about how our govService Amanda platform can help. Contact us today to see it live.