Municipal Software

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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While large city government offices have been using municipal software ostensibly since the 1960s, smaller municipalities have only recently begun to use computer-aided organization and functional power. The type of software available for use in such offices has also changed dramatically, moving from crude relational database software to nearly fully automatic cataloging and processing tools. The range of applications for municipal software has increased as well, affecting many various office functions.

A Brief History of Municipal Software Use

In the 1960s, the majority of computer power available for business use came in form of towering machines and hard-wired custom programming. Upon purchase of business computers, customers were able to select from company's complete catalog of programs, or commission custom software for their own needs. In the 1960s, smaller software manufacturers begin to appear on the market, but it wasn't until the larger computer manufacturers ceased bundling their programs in the late-1960s that such software makers were able to maintain a footing in the market.

With the development and subsequent success of the personal computer in the mid- and late 1970s, many software designers were able to answer the demand for more powerful and varied business and municipal software. Throughout the late 19070s and 1980s, smaller municipalities began to pursue computer-aided organization and even simple automation. Now, the development and widespread use of the Internet enables municipal software to offer the flexibility and functionality many small government offices have needed.

Current Features of Municipal Software

There are a few main types of municipal software currently in use. The most common may be accounting software, GIS software, and asset management software. Other available programs include utility billing, tax management, and voter registration software.

Modern municipal accounting software is a powerful tool that can simplify many of the functions of local governments' accounting departments. It is capable or processing revenue and expenditures, and posting it all a general ledger or other user-specified financial journals. It can also commonly analyze the current financial position of any number of accounts and generate reports and comparisons to the current budget.

GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software helps users organize demographic and property data in a geographic context. Many current versions of GIS municipal software include various local mapping, zoning, and permitting functions. They also allow users to create detailed histories, including photos, CAD drawings, notes, and other information, all organized under custom parameters. This allows for offices to account for information such as local regulations, restrictions, and taxes during city planning processes.

Benefits of Modern Municipal Software

The true strength of modern municipal software, however, is its connectivity. Many of the individual software modules can be used in concert to create fully functional software suites, which can increase inter-departmental communication and workflow efficiency. Current software can also help speed up processing times for permit and license applications and utility bill payment.

For example, in many kinds of municipal software systems, zoning information from GIS software may factor into utility costs. Consumers may have the option of online bill payment, which may be directly posted to the general ledger of the accounting software. The software can then automatically generate and file complete transaction reports.

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