Santa Barbara contracts with Avenu for modernized tax and license administration services

The Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously May 3 to contract with Avenu Insights & Analytics for tax and license administration services. The agreement will allow Santa Barbara to modernize an antiquated system, which currently does not allow businesses to submit paperwork or payments online.

Avenu already provides a variety of services to the City, including sales and use tax allocation audit, analysis and reporting services, utility user tax compliance services, and business license tax compliance services.

“They have been a reliable partner with the City for many years, with a proven track record of success in revenue recovery and compliance,” according to the Finance Department. “During COVID-19, they also provided thorough and detailed analyses and reporting information that assisted staff in successfully forecasting impacts to major revenues.”

The agreement with Avenu for tax and license administration services will run for three years, with an option to extend the agreement for two one-year periods. The estimated cost is $272,000 annually.

Santa Barbara’s Finance Department has been using the same software for the past 16 years. After the COVID-19 pandemic, calls for an electronic submission feature increased substantially.

“It’s about time,” said Councilmember Kristen Sneddon of the new contract with Avenu. “This is customer service, it’s modernizing, it’s in line with everything that people expect — to be able to pay online.”

The City Council agenda report laid out the following advantages:

By entering into this agreement, Muniservices will expand their current services to provide specialized business license administration. The City will be able to provide more comprehensive business license services, streamline the business license process and utilize best practices to assist with business owner requests that the City could not otherwise provide. Examples of some enhanced services include the following:

1. The ability to submit and renew a business license application online;

2. The ability to submit payments for licenses and assessments online using a credit card;

3. Enable The City to capture more accurate and detailed information to prevent loss in business license tax revenues by utilizing the Muniservices software system which is able to cross reference information with the California state sales tax information; and

4. Real-time management reporting to more effectively monitor business license and other tax activities.

The department will experience efficiency gains with license and payment processing, as well as cashiering functions. The current database for tax and licenses provided by Progressive Solutions will be able to be retired resulting in cost savings, as well as ongoing paper, ink, envelopes and postage savings. Staff time will be redirected to the list of remaining backlogged process improvement and customer service initiatives.

You can view video of the May 3 City Council meeting here. Finance Director Keith DiMartini’s presentation on the agreement with Avenu comes at the 27:00 mark.