Interactive has worked with Nebraska for 15 years and provides hundreds of applications for its agencies, including the DMV.

Nebraska Interactive provides the Online Vehicle Tax Estimator to the state free-of-charge thanks to NIC's self-funded model of revenue.

"The way that we make our money is that we incur all of the upfront costs, so there are no taxpayer dollars in the states, and then there's typically a transaction or a convenience fee for each of the revenue-generating services that we put online," Beaton said.

NIC, through its subsidiaries in states, provides revenue- and nonrevenue-generating applications, and enterprise portals. The revenue-generating applications require users to pay to renew professional licenses, make filings or look up certain information. The money these services bring in subsidizes free ones, like Nebraska DMV's Online Vehicle Tax Estimator.

NIC subsidiaries manage their respective operations.

"We're responsible for all the security," Beaton said. "We build the application, monitor it, and then we report monthly back to the agency or the oversight board that is our partner in that state."

The Nebraska DMV created a strategic business plan in 2000, a component of which focused on deploying more e-government solutions to citizens. This led to discussions with Nebraska Interactive, which was already responsible for Nebraska.gov and other state Web applications, about the types of projects the agency wanted to create.

"Since we were new to e-government concepts, we decided we'd pick some smaller projects that we thought we could achieve fairly quickly," Neth said. The tax estimator was one of these smaller projects, and its implementation began in February 2005. "Because NIC already had an interface to our motor vehicle systems, we were able to, within a six-month time frame, identify the statement of work, develop the functional specs and have NIC program the system. Then we did some testing internally, and then released it to the general public."

The Online Vehicle Tax Estimator has been used frequently by Nebraskans since being released. According to the 2007 NASCIO submission, the application performed an average of 3,200 estimates a month between 2005 and 2007. Hoffman said 68,000 people used the system in 2008.

 

Behind the Scenes

Nebraska's online tax estimator requires coordination between government tax experts and IT personnel in both the DMV and Nebraska Interactive, especially when county tax laws change. When necessary, members of the DMV's IT department serve as liaisons between nontechnical government staff and Nebraska Interactive developers to articulate the necessary updates.

"If a city is going to go out and put in a new sales tax, we're tracking that internally, so once we know that sales tax or that wheel tax modification has happened, then we have a process in place where we contact the Nebraska Interactive staff and say we need to make these changes," Neth said. Wheel taxes are local taxes that are required in some areas in addition to the state vehicle tax and fees. Not all Nebraska regions levy a wheel tax.

If a user has a technical problem with the estimator and calls the DMV about it, that request usually winds up at the Information Services Division help desk, where staff determine if DMV IT or Nebraska Interactive will handle it.

"One of my staff will evaluate whether it's a problem related to our data internally, or to the interface application itself," Dey said. "If it's the interface application, then we call directly to the developer or developers that have worked on the system and explain to them what we believe it to be, and then the problem gets resolved in that fashion."

According to Brent Hoffman, general manager of Nebraska Interactive, the application was written in Perl. The company interfaces with the DMV's vehicle and title registration system on a distributed network of IBM AS400

Hilton Collins, Staff Writer Hilton Collins  |  GT Staff Writer

By day, Hilton Collins is a staff writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines who covers sustainability, cybersecurity and disaster management issues. By night, he’s a sci-fi/fantasy fanatic, and if he had to choose between comic books, movies, TV shows and novels, he’d have a brain aneurysm. He can be reached at hcollins@govtech.com and on @hiltoncollins on Twitter.