This is a guest blog by Wendy Sanford the Transportation Director in the city of Fairfax, Virginia Public Works Department. Wendy and the city of Fairfax have received a lot of regional support for their two year transportation funding timeline, so ELGL asked her to write about her success developing this timeline. Have a cool financial communications story you want to share? Email us and tell us about it and we’ll get you published on the blog.
In Virginia the lead-time for many regional, state and federal transportation dollars is long; in order to be considered for many sources of public funding that the City may not receive for one, two or even six years, we have to apply now. While we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves in terms of planning, we also do not want to miss the opportunity to receive public dollars for important projects.
In just the past few years alone, a number of new, high-dollar transportation funding sources have become available to localities. This is an exciting time for us to plan for much-needed projects.
However, in order for City and its leadership to develop a transparent process for identifying projects that may not be implemented for years (if the City is even successful in receiving the funds), it is important for everyone involved to have a clear understanding of the various funding cycles and when there are required decision points.
There are at least ten external sources of transportation funding that the City can leverage for new capital projects. Each funding source has its own project eligibility requirements, funding match requirement and application requirements. While these are all important to the decision making process, perhaps the most important aspect from a planning perspective is the application cycle for each funding source.
Each funding source operates on its own unique timeline. For instance, some funding sources accept funding applications annually, other biennially. Some accept applications in even years only, some in odd years only. And to further complicate matters, while we may apply for funding in an odd calendar year, for instance, that funding may not become available to us until the following calendar or fiscal year (which are not the same thing).
In order to help make sense of the funding timeline, the City has developed a funding wheel as a visual tool to help us easily identify the span of each application cycle and key decision points. It also helps us anticipate what’s coming in the next few months.
On the wheel, each funding source is represented by a unique color band. The start of the band, which is shown with hatching, represents the beginning of the application cycle. This hatched portion represents the open application period or when the funding entity is accepting applications.
The asterisk within the hatched area indicates when the City Council resolution of support is required. The remainder of the band, which is solid, depicts the remainder of the funding cycle, which is when the funding entity reviews applications, makes recommendations, holds public hearings, and ultimately makes final funding recommendations. The end of the solid band depicts the end of the funding cycle, which is when the decision making authority for that funding adopts its funding plan.
Ultimately, the goal of this visual is to provide an increased level of transparency for the community about when decisions are made for transportation funding.