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Special Districts Use Technology as a Staff Multiplier


Welcome to the latest issue of The Districts, where we chronicle the people, issues and activities impacting special districts across the U.S.

News Staff / January 30, 2019

The Case for Transformation: Technology as a Staff Multiplier

In late 2018, we conducted a national survey of special districts to understand their priorities, resources and workloads. Based on responses from more than 150 special districts, one key takeaway is that districts typically have a lean staff serving a large constituent base. Nearly 70 percent of responding districts have 50 employees or less, yet the majority of districts serve more than 50,000 constituents. Many districts have their administrative budgets capped by law at 1 percent of their total budgets, however other factors are at work, too. District leaders ranked budget and cost control as their top priority, indicating few have the resources for staff expansion. Special districts, like other units of government, struggle to compete with private employers for talent.

Throughout last year we saw districts responding to these pressures by automating controls and processes, strengthening mobile tools, and modernizing systems in order to deliver better service and more value with existing staff. We expect this trend to continue, with special districts seeking new technology to improve efficiency and data-driven insights to drive smart resource allocation.

Special Districts Chart

Get Ready for 2019 Special Districts Summits

2019 Special Districts Program activities are ramping up. This years Special Districts Summits will be bigger than ever. We’’re planning live regional events in the following cities:

  • Special Districts Summit West Paradise Pier Hotel, Anaheim, Calif. –– May 30
  • Special Districts Summit Northeast Philadelphia –– June
  • Special Districts Summit Southeast -- Orlando, Fla. July–
  • Special Districts Summit Southwest Houston –– August
  • Special Districts Summit Midwest Chicago –– September

Look for dates and agendas soon on the Special Districts Program events page.

Webcast: Learn How Districts Are Innovating to Deliver More Value and World-Class Service

Citizen expectations for digital services are higher than ever before, presenting both a challenge and opportunity for Special Districts. Often, Special Districts are on the front line of customer experience delivering essential services, including water and power; operating airports and seaports; and managing transit systems and parks. As service expectations evolve, providing a superior customer experience is increasingly important to their success. –

Join us Feb. 28 to hear how special district leaders are transforming how they deliver value to constituents by increasing efficiencies which impact their bottom line. This fast-paced, 60-minute webcast will share great ideas for satisfying customer demands, empowering your workforce and improving performance. Register now for this important free event.

District Spotlight: Transformation in Action

The Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District in Riverside, Calif., offers a real-world example of how technology modernization can drive efficiency, service and value. The district -- which serves 144,000 water and wastewater clients across 97 square miles -- recently rolled out smart meters to its customers and is now moving critical business systems to the cloud.

"As a growing organization we have ever more complex day-to-day processes, and we need a more modern system to support that," says IT Director Jim Ollerton. The district began deploying a cloud-based ERP system a year and a half ago, starting with financial and supply chain suites. It expects to migrate human resources functions to the cloud early this year and payroll by 2020.

"The new technology is transforming how the district operates," says Ollerton. My staff no longer has to maintain and patch those servers and applications. We are also paying our vendors quicker. The system runs more efficiently and staff now have better access to the data through the improved reporting tools.

Learn more about how the district uses technology here.

More Articles Worth a Read

Here are the latest stories from Special Districts around the country. 

The Otay Water District in San Diego County uses camera-equipped drones to inspect water tanks, reservoirs and other facilities. The district says the technology makes inspections more efficient and keeps employees out of risky situations.

California’s Bay Area Rapid Transit District added a new multimodal trip-planning feature to its mobile app. Riders can use the tool to find transportation options from more than 30 operators across nine counties in the San Francisco metro area.

Rideshare service operator Lyft now displays public transit routes and schedules in its mobile app for users in select cities. The company recently rolled out the feature in Chicago. It’s also available in Santa Monica (Calif.); Seattle; Washington, D.C.; and Los Angeles.

New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio says hell work with the state's Metropolitan Transit Authority to improve local bus service, which has seen declining ridership over the past five years. Plans include more dedicated bus lanes and traffic signal priority technology designed to get buses through intersections faster.

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