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Revealed: The True Cost of Paper-Based Agenda and Records Systems

In the coming weeks we will share the key findings of iCompass’s 3rd Annual Municipal Clerks Survey, and what this could mean for your local government. This survey was distributed to 21,000 municipal clerks, making it the largest of its kind in North America. Whether you are a City Manager or Clerk, these findings could change the way you see your organization, and help better inform budgetary decisions for improvements in the Clerk’s Department. At the end of the month we will be releasing a helpful guide so you can easily access these findings.

How Much Time Do Clerks Spend on Legislative Duties?

iCompass’ 3rd Annual Municipal Clerks Survey found Clerks dedicate 51% of their work-hours to legislative duties, such as meeting minutes, agenda management, records management and legislative tracking. But the big takeaway is how this 20 hours per a week is being spent. Despite all the time and effort spent, local governments, particularly Clerks and City Managers, still face a serious risk of lawsuit, the loss of public trust and media scrutiny. And all because of a lack of transparency and not enough public access to records.  

Why Are Local Governments at Risk?

The results show an overwhelming majority (73%) of local governments in North America still rely on a paper-based process for agenda management. This means countless hours are spent compiling documents the general public and the media can’t easily access.  While a lack of efficiency for budget-strapped local governments will always be a concern, the risks go far deeper.

State/Federal legislation continues to amp up the pressure on local governments of all sizes to deliver meeting and records related information online in a timely manner. But in many cases legislation falls short of growing expectations from the public, the media and some councils that agendas, minutes, records should all be available in an easily consumable format online.  

Without an automated system for the creation and publishing of agenda packets, not to mention tracking of upcoming items, local governments will struggle meeting this standard without hiring additional staff or dropping services levels elsewhere.  A paper-based system presents a number of risks that can impact the job security of top-ranking local government officials, as well as expose organizations to the potential for lawsuits and litigation.

How Agenda Packets Are Created

Surprisingly 73% of Local Governments Still Rely on Paper-Based Processes for Agenda Management. The survey also found that local governments currently fit into one of the following three scenarios for the agenda management process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Implications for Clerks

Behind every local government that uses a manual approach to agenda management, is a Clerk  devoting half their work-week (15-20 hours) to agenda management. From compiling signatures to having police officers deliver packets, the list of inefficient tasks in a paper-based system is lengthy.  An inability to make last-minute changes to an agenda can delay legislation,  and leave less time for Council to absorb information.   Ultimately, a paper-based system limits the Clerk’s ability to make an impact.  Instead of focusing on new projects to deliver better services, they will be spending almost half of their job doing time-consuming manual tasks.   

So, What Can You Take Away From the Survey Results?

Clerks are having to jump hurdle after hurdle to deliver a high standard of service for their citizens. Paper-based approaches to agenda and records management are taking up hours of valuable time and still do not result in the level of transparency necessary for local government. What’s more, these challenges are being compounded by increasingly tighter local government budgets.

The good news is there are ways to reduce the time needed for legislative duties, enabling local governments to achieve more with less. The even better news is that an automated solution doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, the agenda management tool from iCompass - AgendaFree - is free for local governments, and can halve the time spent on agenda management. To see how AgendaFree can increase efficiency without compromising a local government’s budget, learn more here.