A Different Way to Run the CITF?

Continued from "Where has the CITF Money Gone?"

Going forward, the public policy decisions made in the past few years regarding this stream of money will certainly manifest themselves in one way or another. There have already been questions regarding the County’s decision to allow the Redevelopment Authority to administer the money. That’s something that was not mentioned in Act 53. In so doing we have to wonder if the County has ceded too much control over the funding.

By pure coincidence, the County Council deliberated on two CITF matters at their November 16th meeting: first, to accept the next disbursement of money from the state, and second, whether to change the amount of control the Redevelopment Authority has over the money.

After all, once the pot of revenue was put into the statute the Authority created the fund and even took action to add the aspect of "tourism" to it. What does that mean for projects in future years in terms of purpose and location? Will cultural amenities funded by RAD look the CITF as another place to explore?

Then too, what effects will the County’s (or the Authority’s) decision to make this program a block grant type arrangement where money would be handed out to municipalities and authorities instead of using it for the infrastructure it oversees itself have? According to the County’s most recent Comprehensive Financial Report, it has over 500 bridges, 12,000 acres of parks, 8 maintenance garages, and close to 400 miles of paved roads. As capital needs for these and other assets increase there might be a debate over whether the infrastructure fund should have been kept "in house".

Shaking the Gaming Money Tree

Residents and taxpayers in Allegheny County might be surprised to find that some of the sidewalks upon which they traverse were made possible by people playing slot machines. So too with some bridges, parks, buildings, and other physical structures as well as planning, marketing, and loan initiatives.

One of the eight distributions of slots money Allegheny County received under Act 53 of 2007-the law that divvied up the share of economic development projects funded by gaming-was $80 million for a "…community infrastructure fund of a county of the second class to fund construction, development, improvement, and maintenance of infrastructure projects". The law further stipulated that the County would get ten annual disbursements of $6.6 million through 2018. Thus far $13.2 million has been received by the County and handed over to be administered by the Redevelopment Authority. Some $9.2 million has been distributed through September 2010.

Under the most recent program guidelines for the Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund (CITF, and the tourism aspect was added by the County’s Redevelopment Authority after Act 53 was passed), the money can fund acquisition of land and buildings; for costs related to storm water, sanitary sewer, water supply, and transportation projects; demolition; environmental projects; planning,; streetscape; and other site preparation costs at the discretion of the Authority. The money cannot be used as bridge financing, for operating expenses, to refinance debt, or municipal vehicles or structures.

Municipalities, authorities, councils of government, and non-profits can obtain a grant or a loan; for-profit businesses are eligible for loans only; the maximum amount for a single project or application (whether a grant or loan) is $250,000.

It is too early to assess the benefits of many distributions from the fund: the guidelines do say that awards are evaluated on job creation and retention over a three year period, the amount of funding per full time job, the amount of matching funds, etc. Much of that will come by way of a close-out audit when funds are drawn down.

Two follow up entries on the blog will detail the money that has been handed out through September of 2010 and the policy framework going forward.