GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — He’s not the guy at city hall you might think of when it comes to creating ways to make dealing with government easier.
“Whenever you refer to yourself as the tax collector, you kind of (think), ‘Do I really want to say that?’ said Grand Rapids Treasurer John Globensky.
But Globensky has simplified the process. He even has the awards to prove it.
GoldenGov, a website that tracks digital innovations in government, has named Globensky its City Executive of the Year.
Besides collecting taxes, the city treasurer’s office collects fees for services like water and sewer services, trash collection and parking tickets.
A few years back, the city did a survey and found about 82% of questions sent to the city’s website involve a service connected to the treasurer’s office.
“To contact the treasurer. Research a bill or pay a bill. And so when you’re looking at 82% of your traffic was to accomplish a service, that changed our whole thinking,” Globensky said.
The city website was redesigned, making it easier for residents to navigate to the areas they used most, especially when it comes to online bill paying.
Out of the website came GRPayIt, the city’s mobile app.
“We don’t want to have people hop on a bus and take a 1/2 hour, 40 minutes to get to city hall to pay a $12 refuse bill, and then take another 1/2 hour, 45 minutes to ride home,” Globensky said. “We want to make that interaction very positive and very easy for people to work with us.”
The digital approach has shown results in improving online bill pay.
Globensky’s office collected $29.6 million in taxes and fees through digital means in 2017.
“We now are estimating for this year, two years later, we’re going to collect somewhere north of $65 million,” said Globensky, who was appointed city treasurer in 2014.
The city has also seen a reduction in late-fee charges, especially when it comes to water and sewer bills.
“We’ve seen about a 25 percent drop in that. The last time I looked, we had about a $900,000 late fee collection,” Globensky said. “So that means $300,000 more money stays in our citizens’ pockets.”
More improvements are on the way, including upgrades that will allow customers to spread their online payments out.