The Times West Virginian

July 8, 2012

Electronic age

Treasury’s ‘e-government’ system makes it easier to do business with state

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Every year, more people are using the State Treasury’s “e-government” system, which makes it easier to do business with the state of West Virginia.

This program was started in 2001 and has been growing ever since, said West Virginia State Treasurer John Perdue.

Through the system, 588,081 items were processed — equaling more than $320 million — for fiscal year 2012, which ended June 30. This was a record number for the system.

Eleven years ago when the program was established, approximately $309,000 — or 1,040 items — were processed. The numbers for the 2011 fiscal year were about $274 million and 505,890 items.

Over the history of the program, the system has had almost $1.4 billion in business and processed 2,721,972 items, according to the E-Government Division of the Treasurer’s Office.

Perdue said, “It really gets us out of the check-writing business,” which has been one of his main objectives since he became treasurer.

He and his office saw how much it cost to write, print, process and store checks. In an effort to save money and make money for the state, they decided to enter into the e-commerce or e-government business and established the program, Perdue said.

The Treasurer’s Office, which is the state bank, operates its computer system just like online banking through a financial institution, Perdue said. People are able to do business with the state electronically through secure online portals, which the office maintains, that are connected to the websites of state agencies.

Using e-government, people can sign up and go online to pay for hunting and fishing licenses, college tuition, and other bills and invoices, he said. Because of this process, the state is able to get paid a lot faster and save a considerable amount of money.

As the state does more e-government, that means less checks. The fee to use e-government is very minimal, which makes the system attractive, Perdue said.

Over the years, the Treasurer’s Office has worked to try to educate people about the program and why it’s beneficial to do business with the state in this way. The staff has held workshops across West Virginia to get more entities involved, including a recent event in the Morgantown area for county and city governments, he said.

“It’s mainly an educational process,” Perdue said.

He said the goal is to continue doing more e-commerce.

West Virginia University — at $94.2 million — led the way with online payments through the system this past fiscal year. Many other universities and colleges in the state are also active.

More schools are going to the e-government program because parents can just go online and pay their child’s tuition bill, and the money is received faster, Perdue said.

Anjali Halabe, assistant vice president of finance for WVU, said the university has been using the State Treasury’s system since fiscal year 2006.

“Today’s customers increasingly utilize the Internet to conduct business,” Halabe said. “E-government allows WVU to offer and accommodate this trend.”

Before 2006, students made check or credit card payments by mail, telephone or lockbox. Today, students can take care of their tuition and fees online, and the e-government program can also be used for events.

“Now most of our student payments are received online,” Halabe said. “Departments can host a conference and permit their attendees to register and pay online at the same time.”

Fairmont State University has been involved in the e-government program since around 2005, said Rick Porto, vice president for administrative and fiscal affairs for the university.

By offering students and parents the ability to pay bills through the Treasurer’s Office online, Fairmont State doesn’t have to swipe credit cards or handle checks in person anymore, he said.

“It’s saved us a lot of paper transactions obviously,” Porto said.

In fiscal year 2012, Fairmont State used the e-government system to take care of $8.4 million in business. The bulk of those revenues come from tuition, but the university has also recently been working with its departments to use the tool for different types of transactions with customers, he said.

“It does the transaction processing for us,” Porto said. “It puts the funds directly into the state coffers.”

With e-government, the money doesn’t take another few days to get to the bank, he said. Fairmont State recognizes the payment in its system, and the money is also posted in the state system at the same time.

Porto said Fairmont State’s dollar amount with the program has increased over the years as the university has grown.

“Fairmont, like WVU and Marshall, has gone to the electronic age when it comes to dealing with our students,” he said.

“We’re obviously second or third to WVU and Marshall, but it’s still big-dollar processing for us.”

Marshall University had $18.9 million.

Other leading participants in the e-government program in 2012 included the state Municipal Bond Commission, with $77.4 million; the Consolidated Public Retirement Board, with $41.3 million; and the Public Employees Insurance Agency, with $33.7 million.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com.