We had the pleasure of interviewing our clients, Austin Blake, City Manager, and Linda Hansell, City Clerk, with The City of Kissimmee, Florida. See what they said about their property lien requests process.
Tell Us About Your City
We were founded in 1883, it’s 15 miles south of Orlando on the edge of Lake Tohopekaliga. Cattle are very big in our community and that’s why you’ll see there’s an Obama bull in our city’s seal.
Since the 2010 census, the population grew by 26% and 74,800 residents currently live in Kissimmee, Florida.
Our leadership is focused on strategic growth, investments in infrastructure, recreation, ecotourism, and conservation. Shingle Creek is the headwaters to the Everglades, and Lake Toho runs down to the Okeechobee River.
We have a historic downtown that still feels quaint. We have SunRail that runs in and we’re the 5th busiest station. People come down from all over to celebrate life’s occasions. It’s an awesome city – maybe we’re a little biased! Our 20-year goal is to be one of Florida’s finest cities, and we are well on our way to get there!
Property Lien Search Process
Initially, we searched for a solution to streamline and centralize public records requests. Trying to link correspondence with requests was a messy, manual process. Once we implemented JustFOIA, we discovered that we could use it for lien searches as well. By modifying our business processes, we lowered operational costs with efficient technology that works for our business. It was also much easier to pay for an annual subscription – it offsets the cost for full-time employees with benefits long term.
The property lien search process was the kicker for us! We processed about 1,050 lien searches in just six months. Previously, everything was a manual process. We faxed or emailed requests for outstanding liens on properties. To coordinate responses from each department and request a lien search was incredibly time-consuming. We had a document with my signature block, and I had to sign off on each one, manually, every time!
The Requester’s payment process was very manual – they had to mail a check or our finance department would accept credit card payments by phone. Now, we have a payment portal available on our website for vendors to request and pay for lien searches. Once the form is submitted, the automated response from JustFOIA provides the request number and security code to access the progress of their request. From there, it’s just a few simple steps:
- Our dedicated staff verifies the parcel number, confirms the property is inside the city limits, and send an invoice to the vendor.
- They issue an email through the JustFOIA customized correspondence template with the attached invoice and it provides instructions on how to make a payment online. Printing invoices is now a thing of the past!
- Once payment is received, we begin processing the request.
We have a specific set of email addresses to send out the requests based on the needs of specific departments. The staff members respond to the email and provide the information needed to move forward. We use statuses during this process and we change them as we go:
- New Request
- Payment Pending
- Payment Received
- Pending Department Response
- Response Compilation
- Final Review
The final review lands in my (City Manager) inbox to conduct the final approval, and apply my electronic signature to the final response document. The purpose of this is to ensure that the research is correct. The human factor creates errors and it’s vital to double-check all information that is sent out. Once the information is verified, the templated email response is sent to the requester and response documents are linked to their request for an easy download. The final step is to mark the status complete! It is very easy to track the status of requests on the dashboard to see open tasks that need more attention. Before, we would have to keep track of every single detail manually – and on paper!
We generated $40,000 in revenue by charging $30 per lien request and $75 for a rush request. This is an issue with most Cities.
It is unbelievable how easy it is for our Finance Department to verify payments via authorize.net and match the balances with JustFOIA payment reports. Before the payment portal was implemented, the staff would call the requester if payment was declined. The time it takes to search for data reduced by approximately 70 percent after the portal went live! The Administrative Assistant had to process every transaction, per vendor and had to keep track of every payment. Now, JustFOIA allows us to pull one report each day to provide that information to the Finance Department.
What is the most positive change you have seen since implementation, and one you did not anticipate?
It’s very configurable and powerful. We figured out a way to manage lien searches through JustFOIA. We processed over 1,050 lien searches since January 1, 2019, (about one per hour) and only 144 PRRs during that time.
The time savings – that was a very positive change – the payment portal has absolutely the best thing ever! We generated over $40,000 in revenue for lien searches alone.
How the City of Kissimmee Processes Lien Requests:
What is the greatest benefit you received as a result of implementing JustFOIA?
“The greatest benefit has increased situational awareness for everything that is going on. Sometimes, there are multiple team members working on a request. If it was done in individual email accounts, we couldn’t see the progress. JustFOIA allows a 30,000-foot view of progress with all requests within the system. We can determine why things are bottlenecking to move things forward. In Development Services, there are so many divisions and responsibilities – imagine if five people were assigned to one request. Each division is now a department within the system, so the requests are being routed efficiently. Our process will continue to evolve, and JustFOIA gives us the opportunity to evolve!” – Austin Blake
When sharing with others about your JustFOIA solution, what would you say?
“JustFOIA gives you an opportunity to bring situational awareness, improves the efficiency of your request process, and streamlines the payment process as well.” – Austin Blake