Focus On Community
Focus On Community
Community funding programs discussed at Team PA-sponsored forums
A common theme rose from a forum concerning funding for community-based programs across the commonwealth: they must be impactful and deliver a Return on Investment for initiatives that utilize taxpayer dollars.
Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) officials delivered that message at the first in a series of meetings designed to communicate to – and gather feedback from – local and regional partners whose administer community-based programs, according to Ed Geiger, Acting Deputy Secretary for Community Affairs and Development at DCED.
“We are moving away from the entitlement approach, and will consider applications on a competitive basis, funding the strongest proposals,” Geiger said. “While many of our programs have been reduced, we believe that we have enhanced the funds that will be made available by focusing on performance measures, encouraging public-private partnerships and rewarding initiative from local communities.”
The first forum, held before a packed house at Harrisburg University, unveiled proposed funding in the 2011-12 state budget for three major community-based programs through the following means: Keystone Communities; Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credits and Municipal Assistance Grant programs.
Geiger told the crowd of 130-plus people that the Keystone Communities program consolidates three former programs under one line item in the 2011-12 budget a total of $12.5 million. DCED will continue to fund previously designated communities through the commitments previously awarded; however, all newly designated communities approved will be subject to the new funding approach.
“Too often, state funding goes to operational costs and when the funding stops, the project stops,” Geiger said. “Creating sustainable communities by providing technical and planning support as well as financial support is our main goal of Keystone Communities.”
Overall, DCED will encourage those communities to look to other funding sources as the ongoing means of operational support, including business improvement districts for Main Street, Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credits for Elm Street and the Partnerships for Regional Economic Performance program for Enterprise Zones.
The Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) Tax Credits initiative restores funding at $18 million for 2011-12.
“Last year, this program was only funded at $8 million during cuts to that part of the budget, this year’s budget restores funding for all four core components of the Neighborhood Assistance Program,” said Geiger. There are performance/outcome-based measures tied to all applicants who apply for tax credits under this program.
“It is very important for us to focus and expand upon our performance measures to develop strong outcome measures,” Geiger said. “We will look at property values in the neighborhood being assisted, homeownership and vacancy rates and on the business side, jobs that are created. Those are very clear outcomes we can measure.”
Fred Reddig, Executive Director, Governor’s Center for Local Government Services, highlighted the third funding mechanism after telling the audience the center is the “One Stop Shop” for local governments and provides them access to all state agencies for information and publications’ municipal statistics; training at the Pennsylvania Construction Codes Academy and technical and financial assistance.
Reddig discussed the Municipal Assistance Program (MAP), which will be funded at $683,000 in the 2011-12 budget.
This program consolidates three existing programs under one umbrella, he said.
“MAP will promote cooperation between and among municipalities to foster increased efficiency and effectiveness in delivery of municipal services,” Reddig said. “MAP will also support community planning, implementation and transportation revitalization districts.”
The continuation of two other programs help fiscally challenged municipalities.
The Early intervention program assists communities on the cusp of fiscal distress. Reddig said they must design a five- or 10-year plan to establish short- and long-term fiscal objectives.
“This addresses those municipalities who are on the brink of falling into the Act 47 program, which is the extreme continuum of financial assistance programs,” Reddig said.
The Municipalities Financial Recovery-Act 47 program provides assistance and financial management oversight to those in severe financial stress.
“This is a very intensive focus on communities with very serious fiscal difficulties,” Reddig said. There are currently 20 communities across the commonwealth in this program. It is not a bailout of a community and requires some tough decisions from community leaders as part of the process.”
Additional community forums take Team PA and DCED to Philadelphia, then Pittsburgh, Punxsutawney and Wilkes-Barre. Read more about this program at teampa.com/community.