Grants helpful, while they last
Tax revenue has been less than dependable since the recession hit. But grant funding has remained a relatively reliable source of funding for local governments and schools.
Grants make up about one-third of Mesa County’s budget, according to County Administrator Jon Peacock. The county included nearly $40 million in grants in this year’s budget. That figure is up slightly from 2009, but grant funding for the county hasn’t wavered much in recent years, Peacock said.
Grant funding supplies a smaller portion of the city of Grand Junction’s budget, less than 5 percent, but it contributes, according to City Financial Operations Director Jodi Romero. Grants usually don’t patch gaping holes in a budget during tough economic times, but they will keep certain projects off the chopping block, Romero said.
“We normally use grants for capital projects we wouldn’t otherwise do,” she said.
Romero said the city plans to use $6 million in grants, including $1.4 million in competitive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants and about a half-million dollars in noncompetitive recovery act money. Grant dollars will help with energy-efficiency projects, hiring five police officers, and construction of the 29 Road viaduct at Interstate 70 Business Loop this year.
School District 51 received $22.7 million in grants in 2009-10. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped increase the portion of federal funding the district received, District 51 spokesman Jeff Kirtland said, but funding from that legislation is beginning to run low.
The district is always looking for grants, Kirtland said, because many mandated programs have grants set aside specifically for them, such as special education, speech therapy and audiology.
“We’re always relying on grants for a bump,” he said.
The city, county and School District 51 all received some recovery act money through a noncompetitive process. That money was restricted to certain uses, Romero said, and it could not be used to pay for something already written into a budget with another funding source identified for it.
One problem with grants is they’re often a one-time funding source, and a replacement or renewal may or may not come through the next year. Peacock said the county takes that factor into account when choosing to grow a program with grant dollars.
“We usually take a default position that if a grant goes away, so does the program it pays for. We may make an exception if it’s been highly successful,” Peacock said.