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Process Improvement

Three Things Municipalities Can Implement in 30 days To Possibly Avoid Budget Cuts

Joe DeRosa

Three alternative service delivery methods Municipalities should explore to keep projects moving and avoid budget cuts.

Municipalities continue to struggle during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, 74% of municipalities in the United States have already started making unavoidable cuts and adjustments in response to the projected $360 billion revenue loss for cities over the next three years, according to cititsspeak.org.

Within that same article, which is based on a survey of nearly 1,000 municipalities, it is stated that 13% of those municipalities are having to make what they call “necessary cuts” to inspections, planning, and permitting. Municipalities making similar cuts may be able to stem, or at least lessen their impact, by exploring three alternative service delivery methods. And it is also possible to implement them rather quickly to keep projects moving.

Consider the utilization of electronically based services such as:

  • Electronic Plan Review (EPR): EPR can make backlogs a thing of the past and help municipalities better manage the fluctuations of building activities. Using today’s digital technology, municipalities can streamline the traditional plan review process and usher in a future of faster plan review turnarounds—streamlining operations, reducing costs for applicants while simultaneously avoiding budget deficits, and improving overall service.  Additionally, leveraging EPR also provides an added layer of safety to the municipalities employees by eliminating the need to physically transfer paper back and forth. Municipalities that use EPR to optimize plan review processes not only experience improved efficiency and consistent revenues, but also increased customer service that comes with the accessibility, ease, and transparency that EPR provides. Delivering constant, remote access to plans from any device, EPR promotes project accuracy and transparency throughout each stage of development. In turn, this helps foster a stronger community relationship and builds trust between everyone involved. It also eliminates the need to print plans, mail them, and wait for review and return, offering a cost-effective option that can help communities, like yours, boost their bottom line.
  • Remote Virtual Inspections (RVI): Simply put, a remote inspection uses video technology to transmit a live video feed from the area being inspected back to a SAFEbuilt inspector. The inspector remains a safe distance away, either on site and outside of inspection area, or totally off site. Today, SAFEbuilt performs remote inspections nationally. Communities in Colorado, Georgia, and Florida, for example, embrace SAFEbuilt’s remote inspections as an efficient service delivery alternative. The most common and ideal scenarios for remote inspection include small projects, residential additions, alteration re-inspections, electrical reconnects and service upgrades, and water heaters. There are important factors to consider in developing this process, starting with client agreement and an understanding their technology capabilities. Usually all that is needed for these types of inspections is a video-capable phone or mobile device on site.
  • Online Building Permits: Some municipalities have begun to leverage email as a means to keep projects moving. While email is a great tool for communication, it isn’t necessarily the best tool for complex and nuanced permit processing. To begin bringing your permitting process online, it may help to think about the process itself and the paperwork therein. Are there inputs (forms) or outputs (reports) that can be processed electronically to keep your processes moving? Consult with your internal IT team for privacy and licensing concerns. However, to make the process the most efficient, and customized to your particular needs, we suggest considering one of our building department workflow products, CommunityCore or Gov-Easy, to take your process fully electronic.

These virtual service delivery methods may not be able to stop every budget cut, but they may help recover some of the lost ground rather quickly. For example, Centennial, Colorado, for years has enjoyed streamlined processes and reduced costs through SAFEbuilt’s virtual service delivery system for permits, plan review, and inspections. In Troy, Michigan, adoption of similar SAFEbuilt virtual solutions has helped save the city $1 million in its first year of service.

SAFEbuilt and our family of brands are here to help. Our community technology experts are available to answer your questions and share our experience with any of these technologies.  Email us at help@safebuilt.com to discuss solutions for the immediate challenges you face.

SAFEbuilt is a community development services company. We provide comprehensive building department, private provider, and other professional services with the goal of helping our customers build better, safer communities.

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