Temecula City, California Embraces New Opportunities with SIRE Agenda Plus
The City of Temecula, Calif. is nestled in the wine country between Los Angeles and San Diego. With deep roots going back to the 19th century, the city’s slogan is “Old Traditions, New Opportunities.”
In the spirit of their slogan, this rapidly growing city was in search of a solution to streamline many of their legislative processes and take the leap from a paper-based city council agenda format to an online system.
“It was extremely difficult at times to keep track of everything from the agenda reports and its attachments, to the location of the reports, and the status of each of them,” said Michaela Ballreich, Deputy City Clerk.
The Clerk’s office is responsible for shouldering the burden of organizing and managing the distribution of the agendas. This is complicated by the fact that each agenda is comprised of hundreds of pages. Once the agenda packet was completed, copies would be made and distributed to staff and mailed to the requesting public. This distribution process was not necessarily the most effective way as far as time and cost are concerned.
Consequently, eliminating the paper process was a necessary step towards embracing “New Opportunities.”
The city turned to SIRE Technologies and its Agenda Plus solution to bring it all, from workflow to the city agenda, online and accessible.
At the heart of any city government are the agendas for the city council and other departmental meetings. As the deputy city clerk, it is Ballreich’s responsibility to ensure it is properly assembled, approved and distributed. The average length of Temecula’s city council agenda is usually 400-500 pages long.
The approval process encompasses the Department Director, the City Attorney, the Finance Director, and the Assistant City Manager. A typical agenda packet will include 25 to 30 items.
Every city clerk knows that the process for creating an agenda can be intense. It involves the ability to navigate several layers of approvals, meet unyielding deadlines, and exercise organizational skills that could make battle-ready generals green with envy.
Ballreich and the City Clerk’s Department use SIRE Agenda Plus to automate and streamline many of the functions required of them. Take, for instance, automation of the workflow process.
“We actually had an effective workflow system in place prior to SIRE implementation,” Ballreich said. “The true value came into play when we structured our current SIRE workflow to our previous business process. This demonstrated the flexibility of the program to automate processes that supported our best practices, but it allowed us to do things we never had been able to do before. For example, anyone along the process can know exactly where an agenda report and its attachments may be and may view them at any given time. This is immensely helpful.”
Piles of Papers
“Besides printing the agenda for the city council, 50-100 agendas were mailed and approximately 25 agenda packets were mailed every two weeks to certain individuals at such places as attorneys’ offices, home owner’s associations and so on,” she said.
If each agenda packet takes from 400-500 pages, that adds up to 50,000 pages EVERY MEETING. With meetings held twice monthly, that brings the total to approximately 1.2 million pages per year!
“Now, all the people who previously used to request hard copies of the agenda and agenda packets may simply pull it up on the Internet. This has enabled us to eliminate a significant volume of hard copies. This coupled with postage fees and the time it took for an individual to print and stuff envelopes, has proven to be a significant value for our city.”
Ballreich is able to more efficiently manage the agenda packet during agenda week and, thereby, is afforded the opportunity to more efficiently accomplish other responsibilities. She says her agenda preparation time has been reduced by at least 30 percent.
“People have a tendency to resist change, and at first, it was honestly a challenge for some to make the move to an electronic format. The City Clerk’s Department provided many training sessions and provided user manuals in an effort to ease the transition period. After the implementation, it became an option for Council members to access the agenda by way of laptop during the City Council meetings. Those who choose this method no longer need to receive hard copies.”
Temecula has found that SIRE Agenda Plus brought some unexpected but extremely helpful benefits to the city.
City Attorney Council
Meetings are every second and forth Tuesday. The city attorney used to receive a hard copy of the agenda reports for review and approval the Tuesday prior to each meeting. He would come in from Los Angeles and spend a portion of his time that morning reviewing and approving agenda reports and as they funneled in. If reports came in a day later, other measures would have to be taken such as emailing or faxing the report so that he could then review and approve it.
“We would communicate with him via email or fax, but his signature would not be on the agenda report,” Ballreich said. “Today, he can simply log in and look at his workflow or review staff reports online from in his office in L.A. or even from his home office. This has certainly made a positive impact on his work with the city.”
Finance Director, Assistant Finance Director, and Revenue Manager
The finance director, assistant finance director, and revenue manager can go into the agenda to see staff reports pertaining to contracts and fiscal impacts with a few clicks of a mouse. Before Agenda Plus was implemented, only one person at a time could review the reports. The new system enables authorized individuals to make necessary changes to the documents at any given time.
Deputy City Clerk
“The positive impact it’s had on me is that Agenda Plus permits me to manage my week, when it is an agenda week, in a more productive and effective manner and, thereby, allows me ample time to focus on other responsibilities of my job other than just the agenda.” Ballreich said. “Previously, whenever someone would drop off a staff report, if there were a question about it, that question would usually have to be addressed right then and there. This would cause me to be consistently interrupted when I was on a separate project.”
Citizens of Temecula
“We have now the ease of putting agenda packets on the Internet,” Ballreich said. Citizens have the ability to immediately link to the item and then, if they choose, view the staff reports and all of its associated agenda attachments. The agenda and the agenda packet are posted to the city’s site with ease. Now, citizens don’t have to request a hard copy, the information is available for their consumption at their fingertips, enabling them to be a more integral part of the city’s government.”
“New opportunities” is what SIRE Agenda Plus has provided the City of Temecula – it has afforded the city the opportunity to automate its paper agenda process into a paperless agenda process.
By implementing this visionary new process, the city has derived numerous direct and indirect benefits, such as:
- Know the status and the location of all agenda reports 100% of the time
- Eliminate the possibility of a misplaced agenda report by 100%
- Eliminate millions of pages of printed material by posting information online
- Saves approximately 45 minutes per meeting of IS staff time by having the ability to easily import city council agendas/agenda packets to the city’s Website
- Saves the records department at least 1.5 to 2 hours per city council meeting by no longer having to scan and OCR the agenda packet
- Deputy city clerk now able to manage the agenda packet, at all times, even when traveling on business
- Public and staff can now easily access and search through current or past agenda/agenda packets
- Citizens are better enabled to keep up to date on legislative issues that impact their lives
- Web traffic to the city’s agenda page has increased by approximately 300%
- E-Government services were improved
- Departmental calls to the city clerk’s department requesting a copy of a contract reduced by approximately 50%
- Templates were created to ensure consistency with agenda reports – by the generation of these templates, the IS help desk has experienced a decrease in calls with regard to formatting issues
- Automated workflow depicts the location of the agenda report; this workflow can easily be amended to reflect a different approver in the event of vacations, illness or so on
- Implemented an electronic signature box for each agenda report reflecting city attorney, finance, and city manager approval of the report
The implementation of SIRE Agenda Plus has enabled the City of Temecula to maintain its best “traditional” methods with new “opportunities” that have led to greater efficiencies and taxpayer savings.