San Diego County, Calif., has overhauled its paper-related forms processing system. In June 2013, the Assessor, Recorder and County Clerk’s office CIO Rolf Bishop began a pilot program to use e-signatures for nearly 3,000 residential change-of-address forms per month.
The county, which serves a population of around 3 million, noted an immediate and positive response from its taxpayers who no longer had to drive to the government office and wait in line to fill out the paperwork. Instead, they could fill out the form and sign it online using e-signatures.
Bishop enlisted digital signature vendor SIGNiX to integrate its software into the county office’s web portal. The company’s Independent E-Signatures permanently embed the legal evidence of a signature into a signed document and meet regulations set forth by the State of California.
“Once we had a vendor we could trust to provide high-level security, authentication and long-term legal evidence, we wanted to start small with just one form to see what kind of citizen reaction we would receive,” Bishop says. “The response was so overwhelming, we soon implemented e-signatures for our homeowners’ exemption form.”
The county processes around 36,000 homeowners’ exemption forms each year — and it’s a laborious undertaking with paper and ink. E-signatures reduced the document workflow from 16 steps to two steps. Following a successful phase II, the county implemented e-signatures for business change-of-address and business change-of-ownership.
In addition to the improved citizen convenience, using e-signatures for just these four forms saves the county approximately $230,000 each year in labor costs and expenses, including ink, paper, postage and storage.
“And our savings are likely to swell in the coming months,” Bishop says. “We plan to integrate e-signatures into our assessment appeals and parent/child exemption forms in the next fiscal year.”
Bishop says he’s received calls from other municipalities inquiring about e-signature workflows and implementation into government processes. He has done a presentation on the topic at the Association for Information and Image Management 2016 conference.
“When I talk to other folks about our program, I explain that even within deeply established government processes, the switch to e-signatures is easy and intuitive—and since we’re using SIGNiX Independent E-Signatures, they’re also very secure,” Bishop adds. “But they really perk their ears up when I explain that a return on investment is evident in a few months, not years.”
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