Monday, February 28, 2011

Economic development: CDBG remains vunerable

On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on a continuing resolution package (H.R. 1) that was to include a 62.5 percent cut (or $2.5 billion) to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. The House eventually passed H.R. 1, which will reduce non-security discretionary spending by $60 billion below current levels in the remaining months of 2011. The bill passed 235 for and 189 against. North Carolina's delegation voted along party lines with the exception of Rep. Walter Jones, who voted with Democrats. 
Fortunately, according to the National League of Cities (NLC),  the U.S. Senate leadership has indicated it will not pass H.R.1 in its current form, and President Obama has already said he would veto it. 

However, given the pressure to reduce the deficit by cutting spending, the program remains vulnerable to cuts as a part of any spending package, and we need your help urging Representatives and Senators to freeze, not cut, the program at $4 billion, the FY 2010 level. 
This week, Congress is in recess. NLC is asking city leaders to take this opportunity to “show and tell” your Representatives and Senators the many benefits of CDGB in your communities. 
To assist in your advocacy efforts with your Representatives and Senators during the recess and beyond, here’s a link to resources:  CDBG Action Alert.  (These materials also can be found on NLC’s home page:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Economic development: Hybrid Public Financing Mechanisms

November 2004, the citizens of North Carolina approved an amendment to the state constitution that enabled for the first time the use of tax-increment financing in the state. North Carolina became the 49th state to permit the use of this public financing tool that allows bond debt from public investments in infrastructure and other public facilities development to be secured by the increase in tax revenue anticipated from private development spurred by those public investments.

An offshot of traditional TIF is a "Synthetic TIF".  This method of public fiancing has some similarities to TIF but that does not depend on the amendment to the state Constitution and the issuance of bonds backed by an anticipated increment in tax values. Synthetic TIFs can take a variety of forms. One example is where the developer agrees to finance and construct the public facilities or infrastructure, and the local government agrees, contingent upon sufficient increase in tax valuation over time, either to acquire the completed facilities or to make an economic development grant to the developer to cover the project costs. Thus, the risk that the tax increment will be sufficient to cover the project costs is borne by the developer rather than the local government. The local government may pay the developer out of general funds or issue debt, knowing that the incremental tax revenue is available to meet the payment obligation.

Here's what it looks like:
            Empty 1 acre lot/vacant building = $50,000 tax value
$ 770 total annual tax (before development)

Completed development = $1,000,000 construction/development  = $750,000 tax value
$ 11,550 total annual tax (after development)

Under the above example, owner pays $11,550 annually in county and city taxes.
Owner is "granted" back annually $10,807 ($11,550 - $770) for 5 years = $53,900 total grant!
These synthetic TIFs create revenue streams through grant payments and no public debt is issued. Additionally, they are project specific and much easier and cost effective.

All in favor, say I!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Economic development: Buy local

"Buy Local" Campaigns Making a Difference.

Washington/Beaufort Chamber of Commerce supports a "Keep the bucks in Beaufort" program. Here's a link to their website These buy local campaigns are nothing new but sure do have an impact .A national survey of independent businesses found that those in communities with an active "buy local" campaign experienced significantly stronger revenue growth in 2010 compared to those located in areas without one.
From the press release:
"The survey, which was conducted by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance over an 8-day period in January, gathered data from 2,768 independent businesses. It found that those in places with an active "buy local" campaign run by an Independent Business Alliance or Local First group reported revenue growth of 5.6% on average in 2010, compared to 2.1% for those elsewhere.
Business owners active in these community initiatives also reported a wide range of benefits, including greater customer loyalty and more awareness of the needs of independent businesses among city officials.
Similar surveys over the last three years have produced similar results."
Source: New Rules Project, January 26, 2011 

ARRA: Lighting retrofit grant

The City of Washington was awarded a $259,979 grant to complete an energy efficiency project on seven municipal buildings. With the award, the city will begin transforming its facilities into sustainable buildings that operate efficiently, reduce energy consumption and emissions, thereby reducing utility expenses and retaining jobs. The second goal is to stimulate the economy by creating jobs in the local area as much as possible. Priority will be placed on contractors/subcontractors with employees living in the city and/or Beaufort County.  With these goals in place, the City of Washington is confident that all tax payer dollars are going towards stimulating the economy and promoting energy efficiency conservation.

Washington’s Energy Efficiency Project will require the following equipment and technologies be used:
·         Retrofitting T12 lamps with high efficiency T8 lamps with electronic ballasts and incandescent and mercury vapor to fluorescent.
·         Retrofitting Incandescent lamps to compact florescent lamps (CFLs) and LED Exit Sign Retrofits
·         Installing direct fired gas air heating system to replace the existing hot water heating system.

The following buildings will be including in the project: The Impressions Building; City Hall; Brown Library; Communications Center; Civic Center; Peterson Building; and Susiegray McConnell Aquatic Center; These buildings are owned by the city.

An RFP will be made available over the next 30 days to begin the search for qualified contractors.

Planning bites: semantics

'Smart Growth' Replaced by 'Intelligent Cities'

The term "smart growth" may be approaching the end of its shelf life, according to some. Its replacement: "intelligent cities". USA Today explores the changing lexicon of urban planning today. "That's not to say the principles of smart growth are dead. On the contrary, he says, they're very much alive and so widely accepted that they've become old hat. New Urbanism, the design movement frequently at the heart of smart growth, encourages a mix of homes and businesses in a pedestrian-friendly environment and is common practice now in cities big and small.

"Intelligent cities," the new darling lingo of planners, reflects the times. It captures the essence of 21st-century technology that can help track when and how many people cross a street, water and energy consumption and peak hours at every transit stop. It also will soon allow bidding on a parking space via cellphone (the space goes to the highest bidder)." Read for full story here.