Many governing bodies at the federal, state and county level make development funds available to their constituent entities in the form of grants. These grants can be applied for by municipalities to augment tax collections in satisfying whatever needs may be covered under the grant guidelines.
But these funds are not equally distributed because they require application, justification and sometimes require matches. There are a myriad of charitable grants that are made available, some recurring annually, others only appearing as funds are secured. I firmly believe that the potential to earn considerable funding is enhanced by dedication and effort in discovering, persistently pursuing and diligently applying for available funds.
As an example, I was impressed to read in the 9/15/2017 Daily Record that Boonton, NJ, had been awarded a $1M grant thanks to the “efforts by local officials and a volunteer committee [that] helped secure a $1 million federal grant to fund various improvements to the historic Main Street district.”
So when Councilwoman Susan Poage earlier this year proposed the formation of Township-sponsored committee to pursue grants and organize current grant efforts by our town volunteers, I fully endorsed the idea and anticipated enthusiasm from her fellow township leaders. Councilwoman Poage even had a professional grant writer from our community willing to volunteer her time to help lead this initiative. Much to my disappointment, the response was tepid and to-date has not realized any traction in our Township. The identification of available grants can be daunting, is time consuming and can be a complex pursuit. We missed two state DOT grants in 2014 and 2017; each typically totals about $200,000 annually. We could have paved a lot of roads with $400,000! One individual alone may succeed but a committee of people dedicated to the task, with assistance from an experienced leader, multiplies the potential success. We have people in our community – experts in their fields – willing to assist our current volunteer efforts, and secure more funds so our taxpayers can benefit from more services from around town. Why would such an amazing idea not be met with immediate warmth and acceptance?
Last February, Governor Phil Murphy announced an increase in the amount of Municipal Aid grant awards in New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), thanks to the recent gas tax increase, which more than doubled the amount of funds for local road and bridge safety improvement projects. Berkeley Heights received $275,000 in awards, which positioned us in a tie with Winfield Township for 15th among the Union County recipients, while neighboring townships such as Summit, Cranford and Union received twice as much or more. Not only do we lag behind our neighbors in the amount awarded, but we are yet farther behind due to having completely missed applying for any monies in 2017.
While the reasons for such variability may be sound, I feel strongly that Berkeley Heights can do better. These are funds that we have paid for and are there for the asking. We owe it to our residents to do everything possible to ask for the most we can get.
Like Boonton, we should aspire to deliver the best for our residents and together with Angie Devanney as Mayor, Stephen Yellin as Town Councilman and knowing we already have Councilwoman Poage’s support, I pledge that, if elected, we will make every effort to deliver these kinds of results for Berkeley Heights.