Tucked in the Walla Walla Valley, College Place, Washington is a bustling community centered around higher education, active recreation, and the great outdoors. Nearly 10,000 residents call this community home, steadily growing since its incorporation in 1946. There are steady job opportunities at a wide range of employers, from colleges to correctional facilities, hospitals to hospitality. But College Place also offers access to the best of the area’s burgeoning winery scene, biking and walking trails, and community festivals. It’s a nice place.
College Place has some of the same challenges as other growing communities. Chiefly, this growing town needed to invest more in infrastructure development but the tax base hadn’t quite kept pace. But before a knee-jerk tax hike, College Place’s finance team needed to make sure they weren’t leaving revenue on the table.
City Administrator Mike Rizzitiello and the rest of the team running College Place have their hands full—more than full, actually. Over the past two decades, the city has slimmed down payroll from 60 full-time employees to nearly half that. Running a lean operation is important to College Place, but that means that the staff is stretched pretty thin. Taking on new-but-necessary projects like a comprehensive revenue review? Not possible.
It was very important to Rizzitiello to be able to demonstrate to College Place taxpayers that the government was being the best possible stewards of precious dollars. “We have a transparent budget process, and want to make sure our residents know what’s going on,” he says. “Between our online budget portal and monthly flyer sent with utility bills, we also share data through a year-end newsletter and social media.“ Part of telling that story, though, is having a story to tell.
Rizzitiello reached out to Azavar to help him reassure College Place residents. With more than 25 years of experience in service almost exclusively to local governments, Azavar understands that sometimes the act of double-checking can be worth more than any monetary findings. Plus, because Azavar works on a contingency-based fee model, there was little financial risk for College Place. “We considered other providers, but those firms require a significant up-front fee, regardless of whether or not they find any funds,” reflects Rizzitiello. “And we don’t have the resources to take that chance. I’d have just gone on suspecting that we were losing money, without the in-house resources to investigate.”
To get started with our 360 Degree Revenue Cloud approach, Azavar dispatched production manager Erin Marshall to College Place. Her task? Acquiring, organizing, and digitizing all relevant documents—a perfect task for a professional with a Masters degree in Library Science and a keen commitment to data hygiene. Critical information in hand, the revenue-review team conducted a fine-toothed-comb investigation of College Place’s receivables. The result? Missing electricity tax revenue which Azavar will deliver back to the community’s treasury. But what College Place and Rizzitiello really gained is the peace of mind that the town’s finances are largely on point.
Additional revenue reviews are ongoing, including for short-term rentals. College Place’s location to (fittingly) multiple colleges and universities, as well as near a tourist region, means that there’s a demand for short-term rental properties in the area. Nearby municipalities, such as Walla Walla, have banned short-term rentals, putting pressure on College Place’s market.
However, there are dozens of online travel companies and rental agencies. Just identifying how many short-term rental properties a community has is very difficult. But Azavar’s analysts are able to thoroughly evaluate short-term rental providers to pinpoint relevant properties, ensure ordinances cover short-term rentals, and ensure hosts are remitting all relevant monies.
We are confident that our team of municipal experts will help College Place get a better understanding of how many short-term rentals exist within its borders, and identify incremental revenue from this growing industry.
In addition to a comprehensive revenue review, College Place is also adding our online filing & remittance software. Soon, residents and businesses will be able to use Localgov to pay fees safely and securely.
Users have the option of paying via ACH drafts, credit, or debit cards, and receive instant confirmation that they’re in compliance. College Place will benefit from a steadier flow of revenue directly to municipal accounts. An added benefit is that this all-digital tool helps minimize in-office visits by taxpayer and staff time needed to process paper forms and paper checks.
Local governments of all sizes across the country are seeing the benefits of a deep-dive examination of their revenues. Whether reviews uncover substantial findings or simply offer modest returns, the most important takeaway for municipal managers as well as taxpayers is clarity. Is the city doing its best to run a tight ship? Are records accurate and actionable? These are the types of questions that can be cleared with Azavar’s 360 Degree Revenue Cloud.
Start a conversation today about your community’s needs with one of our local-government professionals. Together, we can design a productive program for your city. Let’s talk.
I suspected we were leaving money on the table, but didn’t have the resources to investigate. Thanks to Azavar, now we know.