Author Archives: Jake Holley

How to Make a Big Software Switch Less Intimidating

Oh no you’ve really done it this time!

You’ve met with the vendor. You’ve made the decision. You’ve cut the purchase order. And now? Now you have to go through with it!

A major software change is incredibly intimidating for many agencies seeking an update to their systems. It means dealing with a lot of information, learning new processes, integrating the system, taking the network off-line, and training employees. As a software provider for local governments, schools and utilities, we are no strangers to the intimidation factor. That’s why we’ve pledged a great deal of our efforts towards making the process as pain-free as possible. Read more >

Posted in Best Practices, BMS Products, BMS Tech Tips, City Clerk Cafe, Office Efficiency | Comments Off on How to Make a Big Software Switch Less Intimidating

New Web Portal Aims to Help Small Communities Apply for Federal Funding

Since the passing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act earlier this year, there are billions of dollars available for local governments to update crumbling infrastructure. However, accessing those funds is not always as easy as it sounds when navigating the grant application process and accompanying bureaucracy feels more like a funhouse Odyssey than a walk in the park. Luckily, a new joint venture will launch this summer designed to help small and mid-sized cities secure the federal bag.

Local Infrastructure Hub, a collaboration between the US Conference of Mayors (USCM), the National League of Cities (NLC), and Results for America will go live July 1st as reported by American City & County. Read more >

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Five Ideas for Creating Transparency Within Your Local Agency

Paul Gillin of the book The New Influencers is noted as saying “Transparency may be the most disruptive and far-reaching innovation to come out of social media.”

Isn’t that the truth? Good or bad, social media has changed the way the government and media releases information. Social media allows people of all ages, genders, classes and interests to share, spread and consider new information in a single keystroke. It is a very powerful—and sometimes—intimidating tool.

But as the saying goes: “If you can’t beat them, join them.” Accordingly, more government agencies are accepting and embracing this new age of transparency online, which has allowed their constituents greater access to, and the ability to participate in the sharing of public information. Read more >

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Covid Recovery Funds Offer Plenty of Options for American Counties

As reported by American City & County, the US Treasury announced its final rule for the State and Local Coronavirus Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF) under ARPA. SLFRF totals $65.1 billion to be allotted on a per county basis with plenty of provisions that allow counties to distribute these funds as they see fit.

One of the key provisions will allow approximately 70% of counties to declare $10 million as lost revenue, which enables them to allocate that money for the following general government services:

  • Constructing schools and hospitals
  • Road maintenance and other infrastructure
  • Health services
  • Government administration and staff
  • Environmental remediation
  • Police, first responders, and public safety

The Treasury’s ruling also improves revenue loss calculations to include utility revenue and liquor store sale options for counties, clarifies eligible uses of distributed funds for capital expenditures, streamlines options for providing premium pay by broadening the pool of eligible employees, authorizes re-hiring local government staff, and most importantly given ever increasing cyber threats, allows recovery funds to be used for improved cybersecurity. Read more >

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Small Counties Can Make Big Impacts on Economic Mobility

The National Association of Counties (NACo) recently released a report detailing how American counties are uniquely positioned to improve economic mobility for residents. While the report identifies seven key areas that counties can focus on, it notes “county authority generally lends the most breadth in supporting financial security” because counties “can promote and educate residents on saving for emergencies or retirement, facilitate programs to promote homeownership, or enact workforce development programs to increase earning potential.” Such programs can help people bolster their personal resources and have a positive impact in terms of relative economic mobility, which measures how individuals rank in terms of income distribution over their lifetime, relative to their peers and parents. Read more >

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Infrastructure Bills Provide Special Considerations for Smaller Communities

With the passing of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, state and local governments will soon have the resources necessary to address longstanding infrastructure needs that traditionally have only been able to be funded on an annual basis. Instead, this bill allows cities and counties more breathing room to fully prioritize major projects and implement solutions over a five-year period to adequately meet the demands of their constituents.

The bill has set aside $284 billion for transportation, $55 billion for water, $65 billion for broadband, $73 billion for energy and power, $21 billion for environmental remediation, $8.3 billion for western water infrastructure (to address drought conditions), and $46 billion for resiliency purposes. Read more >

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New Webtools are Now Available for Creating and Evaluating State Redistricting Efforts

With the 2020 census numbers recently released, rising populations in Montana and several other states will eventually lead to additional congressional seats within the U.S. House of Representatives. Before that can happen, though, each state must undergo a complicated redistricting process to ensure the new congressional districts are drawn to accurately represent constituents without devolving into partisan gerrymandering. While this may seem like a tall order in today’s hyper-partisan political climate, three organizations have already developed powerful webtools that allow anyone to draw new districts according to a variety of criteria. Cooler yet, many states are allowing citizens to submit their evaluated proposals for consideration in how new districts will be finalized. Read more >

Posted in Latest News, Technology | Comments Off on New Webtools are Now Available for Creating and Evaluating State Redistricting Efforts

More Jobs, New Blood, and Adaptation in Public Education

With the 21-22 school year fast approaching along with increased anxiety over the uptick in COVID-19 Delta variant cases, there is a silver lining to a looming, potential storm cloud. Namely, that despite significant job losses for public education in 2020, the US added 943,000 jobs in July—220,000 of which were in local education—according to a report cited by American City & County from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This has led to an influx of ambitious and optimistic teachers and education programs determined to showcase what school districts have learned in the past year and how they continue to adapt to ongoing pandemic-related challenges. Read more >

Posted in Back to School Tips, Latest News, School Software | Comments Off on More Jobs, New Blood, and Adaptation in Public Education

Local Governments and Blockchain: A Match Made in Digital Heaven

Despite niche interest outside of the cryptocurrency community during its inception in 2008, blockchain technology is starting to go mainstream as local governments explore new ways to utilize the digital ledger system for improved security, efficiency, and transparency.

This is because blockchain technology offers an easy way to track and verify digital transactions. For example, each taxpayer to pay their property taxes to the county through the blockchain would have their payments logged as a unique “block” containing encrypted transaction information and timestamps. Each transactional block would also contain information referencing the block that preceded it (known as a cryptographic hash function). Read more >

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With Cyberattacks Still on the Rise, Security Solutions Abound for Utility Districts

With a recent report from the FBI showing a 69% increase in cybercrime between 2019 and 2020, it should come as no surprise that such attacks cost US governmental entities just shy of $19 million last year. Most worrisome is that these attacks have not only increased in frequency but in intensity as well, targeting vital aspects of American infrastructure—from oil companies to police departments. Perhaps one of most concerning instances, and one that seemed to fly under the radar, is the water plant that was hacked in Oldsmar, FL back in February.

Hackers managed to find a way to exploit a remote-access loophole that allowed them to increase the amount of lye (used to manage pH levels) fed into the water system. Read more >

Posted in BMS Products, Cloud Computing, Latest News, Technology, Utility Billing | Comments Off on With Cyberattacks Still on the Rise, Security Solutions Abound for Utility Districts

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