Let Us Help: Online Citizen Services

The state of New Jersey will soon require municipalities to expand their online citizen services. The goal is clear – to make it easier for residents to interact with their local governments. Recently passed legislation, Bill A1145, makes the state legislature’s intention clear.

Tasks like applying for planning permission or scheduling inspections no longer require applicants to submit hard-copy papers. Online citizen services also limit the need for in-person visits to government offices. As a result, application and permitting processes become more convenient for citizens. Municipalities benefit not only by becoming more citizen-friendly, but online citizen services also enable local governments to use their staff time more effectively. So, how can your municipality take advantage?

The Digital Transformation of American Municipalities

Digital technology is transforming every aspect of our daily lives. Whether you consider online shopping, the advent of smart home assistants, or remote and hybrid working, none would be possible without recent technological advances.

Digital technology is not only changing the private sector and our personal lives. Municipalities are transforming, too. By transitioning toward a paperless, technology-based way of working, local governments stand to gain. Municipalities have an opportunity to become more citizen-friendly by implementing digital services.

At the same time, their employees can spend their time more effectively. Rather than having to spend time completing manual processes, municipality staff can focus on dealing with more complex issues. Technology, including specifically designed software for municipalities, takes care of repetitive tasks, enabling employees to work smarter.

What the New Legislation Means for New Jersey Communities

The state of New Jersey is encouraging the digital transformation of its municipalities with direct, targeted legislation. Bill A1145, signed in 2021, established the so-called ‘Electronic Permit Processing Review System.’

Under the new legislation, applicants can submit construction permits, plans, and any additional specifications under the State Uniform Construction Code Act online. Municipality employees review the submissions and approve the applications, assuming everything is in order.

In addition, online citizen services under this bill allow municipalities to schedule property inspections. The bill also specifies that communications about the project should be carried out online. In short, anything from the submission of the application to potential requests for additional information and final approval of a project can be carried out online under the new law.

Both applicants and reviewers also benefit from 24-hour access to the information under review. This type of access makes it easier for busy citizens to submit additional materials and review comments or information requests from the municipality.

How Can You Simplify Your Community’s Transition?

First things first, transitioning from a traditional municipality model to digital operations is a big undertaking. While the process is nothing to be afraid of, it is worth dedicating sufficient resources to the transition. Resources include time, staff, and financial commitments. Without them, it is hard to create a successful transition.

Working With an Experienced Partner

Another key factor in transitioning successfully is finding the right partner to support your municipality. This is where Mitchell Humphrey comes in. We have been developing software for municipalities across the United States for several decades. Our experience in the field gives us a unique insight into how local government units in the United States work.

We combine that knowledge with a passion for developing software that harnesses the power of technology and is easy to use. The result is our best-selling software FastTrackGov® (FTG), which is currently being used by many municipalities nationwide.

Turning Legislation Into Practical Software

Whenever new legislation changes the way communities work, this legislation inevitably sparks many questions for municipalities. Our work with towns in New Jersey and beyond often starts with answering questions about the potential impact of new laws. Here are some of the most common questions we hear:

  • What do the new rules mean for our community?
  • Which processes will be affected in our municipality?
  • Will staff need to be retrained?
  • How long does it take to implement FTG?
  • Will we need downtime?

As your digital transformation partner, we are here to provide answers to those, and we take pride in a personalized approach. Just like every municipality is different, we ensure that we adapt our approach. That means the answers to the questions above may well differ between municipalities.

In our experience, one-size-fits-all is rarely the best way to deal with the complex requirements of municipal digital transformation. In practice, that means we start by learning as much as we can about your requirements. Just as you have questions for us, we will have questions for you.

Understanding your requirements better allows us to tailor our solution to your needs. We aim to establish a long-term relationship with your community, becoming your resource of choice whenever your community requires software support. In the case of New Jersey, that means we will be there to support you and your team in the future, whenever guidance from the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) changes.

How FTG Can Help Your Community Comply With New Legislation

FastTrackGov® was designed specifically to help community governments like yours connect to citizens and engage with them more comfortably and readily. Every module of this software aims to make it easier for residents to gain access to processes that would otherwise be time-consuming and sometimes inconvenient.

Simplifying Application Processes

Take opening hours, for example. It is understandable that municipalities cannot remain physically open for 24 hours. Software like FTG helps close that gap by giving citizens 24-hour access to their municipality. Residents can supply planning applications whenever it is convenient for them.

Municipality employees can then access the application when they are at work, deciding to process it or request more information. Those information requests do not need to delay the application. Thanks to 24-hour access, the applicant can see the change in status, including requests for additional details, in real-time and submit additional documents.

Compare this to the traditional submission process, and the time saving alone is enormous. Rather than spending time scheduling and attending in-person appointments, both parties can focus on driving the application forward. This is just one example of the benefits of FTG.

Ensuring Compliance

Our solutions are built to comply with the latest municipal laws and regulations. They are also designed in a way that allows us to update them quickly and efficiently when legal requirements change. As a client, you cannot only take advantage of powerful, cutting-edge software. You also gain the peace of mind of knowing that you are compliant with the most recent laws.

Flexible, Supported Implementation

We understand that transitioning toward online citizen services is a big step for any municipality. That is why we are happy to customize the implementation of FTG to your requirements.

In practice, that means you have a choice between going fully digital or transitioning step-by-step. Both have advantages. Choosing one big transition means your municipality can benefit fully within the shortest possible space of time. Transitioning step-by-step allows you to focus on individual departments. As one department starts seeing the benefits, staff members effectively become ambassadors for the entire project.

Continued support is one of the cornerstones of our approach to electronic, online citizen services. When your municipality chooses to transition to digital services with Mitchell Humphrey, we supply more than software. We also offer comprehensive staff training, ensuring that every employee is comfortable using the new technology. Once the implementation process is complete, our team is only a phone call or email away when employees have additional questions. Successful digital transformations are built on teamwork, and our team simply becomes an extension of your in-house team.

Final Thoughts

New Jersey’s ‘Electronic Permit Processing Review System’ is designed to simplify interactions between municipalities and citizens to the benefit of both. With the right partner by your side, your community can ensure compliance and meet the legislation’s requirements. As a result, municipality employees can use their time more effectively. Citizens will enjoy greater transparency of the process as well as the ease of interaction. As a result, you are building trust between residents and officials, bringing the whole community closer together. Talk to us today and find out how we can support you.