So, presently the city resident gets four calls for $0 cost. The plan is to make it 2 calls for $0 cost. The next two calls would be $50 each.
As for the budget, lets say a resident had five calls in 2003 and paid $15. The Act 47 look at this and say that the fee in 2006 would be $150. That is an increase of $135. But they are dreaming. The new plan isn't going to generate those kinds of windfalls. Some increases, but think again about the totals.
When the prices get jacked up, residents will be more careful with their systems or else will disconnect from the 9-1-1 system or just leave the alarms off more frequently.
Another point: $50,000 for the software. I'd put out a call for an open-source software solution. For $50,000 you'd be able to hire the programmers and get the job done. And, you'd be able to give some incentives to the open-source software teams for their efforts. The code could then be used in other areas of the county, state, country or world.
This move to open-source software won't be a lot cheaper in the first instances, but it will be much better in the long haul and much cheaper. And, I don't think it would be bad to hire a programming coordinator who does open-souce software and can manage a number of different projects via Sourceforge and such.
Third point: The city has a bad track record with billing, colllections, and application of fees to end-users in the realm of public-services delivered. The EMS system could have been a profitable enterprise on the whole if it would have had the dedicated assets to do the necessary billing and paperwork. People get rushed to the hospital and the city does not get paid. The bills don't go out. The health insurance red tape is huge, but there needs to be some follow-up to get paid for services delivered.
Too often the Act 47 team looks at the budget and sees that the billing department costs could be cut by $200K, but they fail to realize that if an extra $100K was put into the budget then the work would get done as it needs to and the windfall would be 10 or 30-fold increases of incomes.
The overlords and Grant Street politicians are too often penny wise and dollar foolish. They need to think again about the overall solution.
City residents, businesses may face steep fees for false burglar alarms: "The Act 47 recovery team, which wrote the plan, found that 31,000 annual false alarms accounted for 9 percent of police calls.
The city collected $17,400 in false alarm fees last year, according to the Police Bureau. The Act 47 team found that higher fines and better collection could quickly yield $250,000 a year.
'We feel very confident that it will raise a minimum of $200,000 in revenue next year without additional staff' if the software is purchased, Mr. Stern said."
As for the online payments, the quote in the newspaper is, Mr. Stern said he also would like to upgrade the city's Web site to allow people to pay fees and taxes online with credit or debit cards. Mr. Skrinjar said the mayor-elect could support online payment, if taxpayers want it and if all information and funds can be transferred securely. Duhh....
Of course we should be doing online bill payments of city services. Of course it needs to be secure. Making an eMayor suite of servers were planks I talked about when I was running for mayor in 2000 and 2001. That was a long time ago and those efforts have not been put in place.
Furthermore, I'm not sure Bob O'Connor is the type of guy who can make the internet and open-source software a top priority of day-to-day operations. I've never seen an email from Bob O'Connor.
Heck, we still have both the city and the county selling dog licenses. Michael Lamb ran for mayor and talked about how there are two offices on Grant Street doing the same thing (simple dog licenses) and how this was wrong. He barked about those fumbles hundreds of times around the city, in nearly every community he visited. Well, it still happens.
How about if the city provided a way to get a dog license online!