Case Study

Burlington, VT Tackles Growing Pains with Efficiency, Equity, and Inclusivity

Burlington, VT, is a vibrant city located on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain. Home to the University of Vermont and Champlain College, the City has a youthful and progressive atmosphere, buzzing with live-music venues, craft breweries, and art galleries.

Vibrancy is a good thing for small cities, and Burlington is experiencing significant growth and development, with new businesses and residents flocking to the area. Yet growth brings the challenge of the “missing middle” where skyrocketing housing prices make it difficult for residents whose work buoys communities – teachers and small business owners and their employees – to find affordable homes in the city they serve.

The City is rising to the challenge with a range of innovative policies and initiatives, like implementing inclusionary zoning policies. By leveraging digital-first options such as OpenGov Permitting & Licensing, the City is adding efficiency and convenience to the permitting process, which encourages developers to apply for multiple permits, and reduced approval wait times. 

Burlington is also working to digitize the process for local businesses to submit monthly gross tax receipts. The idea is to continue evolving a “digital first” approach by offering more digital touch points to the citizens of Burlington, whether that be for tax payments, permits, dog licenses, or more.  

“We are literally transforming the way residents interact with the City in a digital manner.” 

Scot Barker, Chief Innovation Officer, Burlington, VT

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Customer Results

65% of Entertainment Licenses Renewed Ahead of Schedule

>50% of all Rental Registration Licenses Renewed Ahead of Schedule

Ensures Inclusive Business Practices with Online Permit Submissions

Streamlined Planning & Zoning 

With OpenGov’s zoning software, the City streamlines the permit application process for an inclusionary zoning policy, which mandates that 15% of new housing development is affordable for low- and moderate-income households. This efficient approach helps the City ensure that developers meet the policy’s requirements and contributes to the expansion of the availability of affordable housing for the community.

Easy & Accessible Licensing for Customers and Internal Staff

Applying for licenses online is often more convenient for residents, allowing them to be proactive and submit their information ahead of schedule. After having used OpenGov just one year, over ½ of all applicants renewed rental registration licensing applications and payments before the City’s deadline. Dog licensing is also 27% ahead of last year’s numbers, and entertainment licensing is 65% ahead. This digitized process has also been a game-changer internally: “[OpenGov] not only makes it a more streamlined process for our citizens, it’s really reducing the amount of time we have to spend reminding residents to renew their licenses.”

Proactive Tax Collection 

The City is also moving to use OpenGov to digitize the collection of gross tax receipts from local businesses, which is expected to be transformative and mutually beneficial to all stakeholders involved.

This streamlined process will make it easier for businesses to submit their information proactively. Local businesses submit their gross receipt taxes monthly, and the City is hoping to make it less onerous by leveraging the self-service platform.

Staff can also process and track receipts more accurately, transparently, and efficiently. For example, the City can quickly pull a report to see which businesses haven’t paid the monthly tax yet, making it easier to reach out to those businesses to check in or provide assistance.

The City is also working to expand OpenGov to more areas. “We are really starting to see the positive impacts in what we’re doing and how we are reforming processes, and we’re looking to expand where and how we offer these digital, self-service options” said Barker.

Prioritizing Equitable and Inclusive Practices 

Aside from increasing efficiency, ensuring that the City’s business practices are inclusive and equitable is top of mind for Barker: “We want to make sure that everybody has the ability to approach the City in the way they want and need to approach the City.” 

OpenGov’s self-service platform provides residents with a convenient, accessible, and responsive option to submit applications without physically visiting City Hall. However, leveraging this platform does not exclude those who lack access to a computer or the internet. According to Barker, the City still welcomes anyone to conduct business in person, over the phone or through the mail, ensuring that every community member has equal access to essential services – access that works for them.

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