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Identifying, Securing and Leveraging Resources

How Woodbine Builds
Success upon Success

William Pikolycky
By William Pikolycky
Mayor, Woodbine

2 hands holding a house built of money while another hand adds a $100 dollar bill for the roof

Like most municipalities, Woodbine has been challenged to identify and secure the financial resources needed to carry out capital projects. In some instances, phasing in a project and, therefore, lessening the annual fiscal impact, may be an acceptable model to follow. With material and construction costs the most competitive in recent years, advancing a multi-year project as a single contract could prove to be an economically-feasible alternative that also allows towns to take advantage of historically low municipal bond rates.

Notwithstanding the intensely competitive construction and equipment market and advantageous public/private financing, a declining ratable base and continued economic uncertainty have made municipalities and counties more likely to defer capital expenditures that could result in an increase in taxes.

The Borough of Woodbine has been able to carry out a number of capital projects, which are part of its overall community and economic revitalization agenda, without incurring extraordinary debt or tax increases. These include major capital projects at Woodbine Elementary School; the Washington Avenue Streetscape Program; an addition to the Woodbine Community Center; major sewer and water infrastructure improvements; fire and emergency management facilities and equipment upgrades; and numerous neighborhood revitalization strategies.

All of these projects have involved at least two, and in many cases multiple, grant resources. In following this approach, the Borough has taken deliberate steps to define and quantify the overall project scope, develop a preliminary cost estimate, and focus on potential partners/participants. In this way, a prospective grantor agency, which may not have available all of the funding required to carry out the project, can be reasonably confident that the project has been thought out in sufficient detail. This assurance makes it possible to implement the projects in phases as funds become available. It also reassures creditors that the expectation of additional funding from other sources is realistic and attainable. This creates an opportunity for the project leveraging “perfect storm.”

In the past decade alone, Woodbine has generated over $20.8 million in regional, state and federal funding for 15 major community and economic development projects. The money has come from 49 funding sources. The borough’s local share/capital outlay for these projects has represented less than 5 percent of the total capital project cost. In most instances, other public funds have been used in lieu of municipal matching funds.

The practical realities of dwindling public resources at the regional, state and federal level militate against luxury or purely discretionary projects. Instead, in order to attract public dollars and leverage other public resources, a clear need and the ability to meet a particular funding source’s competitive criteria is critical. Equally important, is having what is called the “readiness to proceed.” This means giving the proper consideration to permits, site control, public consensus, and other factors. The municipality must provide compelling evidence to prospective grantors that their award will yield a significant return on investment in terms of timely implementation of the project and, whenever possible, the leveraging of other public or in some instances private funding.

To say that the process of identifying, securing, and leveraging resources is a work in process is an understatement. Woodbine’s professional team, including grants and strategic planning consultant Triad Associates, is constantly working with the Mayor’s office to focus resources on needs. Developing projects in the broader context of what is currently available and may become available in the future boosts our chances of securing grant funding. This approach has a greater likelihood of success—as opposed to one-shot, one-source approaches or the costly public financing alternative.

This is not to say that a municipality should take an all or nothing approach to its capital programming. In fact, larger scale projects can and perhaps should be implemented in phases whenever possible. In this way, a community may be able to (1) attract funding (by picked the ‘lower hanging fruit’), (2) carry out successfully an initial phase (thus demonstrating performance), and then (3)leverage that positive outcome by attracting and leveraging other funding for additional phases of the project. This will create a higher level of confidence for public funding and build success upon success.

 

First Published in New Jersey Municipalities, Volume 90, Number 4, April 2013

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