January 2011 Featured Article
New Year 2011... What is your municipality's resolution?
It’s that time of year again; time to decide
on a New Year’s resolution. While New Year’s resolutions often include
individual lifestyle changes or eliminating bad habits, why not make one for
your municipality? Identifying a resolution for your municipality might even
help your constituents achieve their resolutions!
In order to help guide the process of
determining a New Year’s resolution for your municipality we looked up some of
the most popular personal resolutions and developed strategies to achieve these
goals. Some of the most popular resolutions include: improving health, enhancing
finances, advancing a career, getting a better job, improving education, getting
more organized and volunteering to help others.
This has been a hot topic at the national
level and a personal passion of the current Administration. At a time when
childhood obesity affects one in three children, there has been positive policy
that has affected the access and distribution of healthy food. In December, The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act was passed into law and will provide
over $4.5 Billion in new funding over the next ten years. The new law will
increase the accessibility of the free lunch program to more low income and at
risk children and provide direct certification for free lunch to children on
Medicaid. Additionally, the new law has updated the U.S. Department of
Agriculture’s nutritional standards for school lunches and will effectively
eliminate the ability of the school to host vending machines that feature junk
food, al la carte food lines and school fundraisers that sell junk food. The
new law has also set funding aside to increase the technical support available
to schools to increase their compliance of the new nutritional food
Is your municipality considered a low access area for fresh fruits and vegetables? If so, there are funding opportunities for private developers and public-private partnerships to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to underserved areas through the federal Healthy Food Financing Initiative and through the Fresh Food Financing Initiative in New Jersey.
Other ways to improve childhood health and the health of all of your residents are by improving the accessibility to sidewalks, walking trails and parks. It could be as simple as building a walking path around an already existing park that will increase the physical activity of your residents. Some funding resources available for these improvements include Safe Routes to School, Small Cities Grants and Community Development Block Grants. Consult your grant consultant to explore potential opportunities that exist in your community.
Improving our finances and saving money are always at the top of the New Year’s resolution list! However, we sometimes feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. Identifying where we are wasting money and assessing what is really important may result in cuts to our personal lifestyles. While this task is daunting, it is important and necessary for local governments to reassess budgets, especially at a time of economic hardship and decreased tax revenues for many municipalities. Looking closely over the budget and making cuts as needed are not easy or popular agenda items. However, sometimes identifying areas of excess, or opportunities to consolidate services, may result in improving the quality of the service provided to your constituents in the long term. Additionally, another way to improve municipal governments while increasing employment can be through grant opportunities or redevelopment projects. While it may not seem feasible during difficult economic times, is a great time to identify potential sites for redevelopment and site acquisition that could ultimately improve the quality of life for the residents, and increase tax revenues in the long term. Holding brain storming meetings or developing wish lists can often times shake out potential projects that are ten or more years down the road. Planning ahead and having an arsenal of ideas is key to capitalizing on grant or funding opportunities that come along in the future.
Advancing a Career, Getting a Better Job and Improving Education
In difficult economic times, obtaining a better job is a difficult task since the job market is already tight. Improving our education during times of economic duress makes the most sense since job opportunities seem scarcer than in prosperous times. For a municipality, it is important to understand the employment base that exists both locally and regionally, and to keep an eye on any opportunities to expand the existing business infrastructure by attracting complimentary industries. Having a strategic plan and sites designated for specific development, with a list of local, state and federal incentives that may exist for certain industries or new technologies is extremely helpful. In a very competitive global economy, selling your residents as a ready, willing and skilled workforce is also very important. Have a plan or protocol in place if a business inquires about locating in your municipality so you can capitalize on an opportunity to add jobs to the local economy. Additionally, be sure to have relationships with your local community college and business owners that facilitate the needs of employers that already exist to better develop workforce training programs for residents. There are many grant and loan opportunities through CDFI organizations that help facilitate businesses in areas that may need additional financial assistance. Understand these funding opportunities that exist to help grow the commercial industries in your community. They can help grow employment and the tax base.
Volunteering and Helping Others
Volunteering is a great way to help the less fortunate in your community. Recent efforts to encourage volunteerism include the efforts of the Service Nation Organization which connects volunteer opportunities to communities and organizations in need. Encourage your residents to volunteer by highlighting a volunteer in your community in the local news paper, or on your municipality website. Helping residents achieve their volunteering goals fosters an environment that helps both your community and your residents!
So, on behalf of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, have a Happy and Healthy 2011. Make some resolutions. Implement them. Help New Jersey grow and prosper. Best Wishes!
Triad Associates is currently the League’s Grant Consulting Firm. Their firm, which is known for its expertise in community and economic development, including strategic planning, redevelopment, acquisition, relocation and funding, has brought diverse plans and projects to life by generating more than $580,000,000 for over 120 public, private and nonprofit clients throughout the Northeast region since 1978. Every member of the Triad team is personally committed and dedicated to the success of its clients and the projects that benefit communities.
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