Tips for switching to online payments for local government permitting and licensing
Catherine Geanuracos
July 20, 2021

Tips for switching to online payments for local government permitting and licensing

A recent survey of 386 local government staffers conducted by The Atlas, ELGL, and Route 50 found that 75% of local governments will adopt software to streamline their operations in 2021 and close to 50% identified revenue capture/ online payment as the most likely thing they'll bring online. That's great news for residents who want to interact with government digitally and governments facing budget cuts and staffing challenges in 2021.

When governments move permitting licensing and other revenue-generating workflows online, they typically see a significant increase in total filings and revenue generation. We've seen 150% to 500% increases in filings for business licenses and event permits when they have been moved to CityGrows, just from making the submission process digital and easier for applicants.

Far too often, though, we find local governments who've negotiated a relationship with a standalone payment processor that isn't able to integrate with permitting and licensing systems, or at least not without undue time and trouble. Even if you're using an existing older processor for some payments, having only one processor isn't necessarily the best way to go. We want local governments to raise their expectations when it comes to processing online refunds and charge disputes and data for reconciliation and accounting.

We'd like to share some of the reasons we'd strongly argue for payment processing that comes built-in to your permit and license application software:
Fast setup - no need to negotiate a contract with a payment processor

  • Fee flexibility: pass transaction fees on to applicants or absorb them depending on your preference
  • Manage charge disputes from within your permitting/ licensing application
  • Issue refunds from within your permitting/ licensing application
  • Get detailed export data on transactions
  • Schedule bank account transfers on the schedule you prefer

Is your standalone payment processor technically sophisticated enough to provide these features? When processors aren't as up to date, integrations with permitting and licensing tools have to be hard-coded. That's often a recipe for broken systems and expensive ongoing maintenance. And it's certainly not cost-effective for smaller government with relatively lower volumes of permitting.

Older payment processors may appear to offer an important benefit: a fairly low credit card processing rate. However they come with hidden drawbacks and significant limitations on customizing fee structures. In our current budget crisis it's important that governments have the option to receive the full permit or license fee and pass transaction fees on to applicants.

Government services should have the kind of simple integrated payments that we're used to in the private sector. That's why CityGrows has chosen to use Stripe's Connect product for our payment systems. Stripe is a global leader in mobile and digital payments and a Level 1 PCI compliant payment processor. Payment information processed on CityGrows never touches our servers, increasing the security of your residents' and businesses' payment information.

We hope more governments across the country start accepting online payment for more of their permits and licenses. Please connect via our chat option (bottom right) to discuss our payment processing features or book a demonstration using the links on this page to learn more.

Catherine Geanuracos

Catherine is the CEO and a Co-Founder of CityGrows. She's dedicated to supporting local governments and helping them improve outcomes for their residents and staff members. She is a former VP of the City of Los Angeles Innovation and Performance Commission and co-founder of LA's Code for America Brigade Hack for LA. She's based in Los Angeles.

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