The estimated cost to transition into paper-saving mode by the City of St. Joseph is $2,500. That is about how much money the city would have to spend up front to eventually save on paper and printing costs if it decides to no longer print paper agendas for city-council meetings. While the city’s general-fund budget is about $2.4 million, and budget reductions are uppermost in mind, paying a cost to save money is still a savings. Exploring cost savings is always a good idea and despite the large price tag in these rough economic times, the paperless transition should be made in St. Joseph.
City officials have discussed this option previously, but it hasn’t gone beyond the discussion level. Well, staff is researching the cost of iPads for elected officials to see if the cost is worth the savings in the long run. It is. Just do it. They also hope to upgrade the city’s email system so elected officials can have a city email address (for example email@example.com).
The idea of going paperless came up briefly at the March 7 city-council meeting. Before that, it was explored in September. Because agendas vary in size, an email option might not be the best way to go. City council member Steve Frank, who already has an iPad, asked if he could use his own iPad as an additional way to save money. He was told he could, but officials explained iPads would have to have the city’s software on it to access city documents during the meetings.
St. Joseph City Administrator Judy Weyrens told council members previously Farmington has also issued iPads to city officials and has saved about $4,000 on paper per year. The way it works is the packet has to be online by a certain date and time so officials can retrieve the packets. In terms of staff time, the transition to an electronic method would also be easier on staff, Weyrens said.
St. Joseph is not the only city to go this route or think about heading this way. Elected officials in Sauk Rapids went paperless a few years ago with officials accessing agendas via laptops during meetings. Some use iPads during meetings, but one Sauk Rapids official preferred to keep the paper agenda.
While saving money is the goal of the proposal, the paperless route is an optional one. Actual costs for the transition are still being determined, but Weyrens said the cost of the devices outweighs the cost of paper in the long run.
It’s time to move beyond discussion mode, take action and go paperless. From the cost savings in printing to a reduction in staff time used to print and sort agendas, going paperless is the best way to go. Elected officials are expected to vote on whether or not to adopt a paperless option at their first city council meeting in April.