September 6, 2012 —
At a town board meeting last month, the audience greeted with snickers a board member’s response to a query about how the town was going to come up with matching funds for a six-figure state grant without raising taxes. Her statement? She said the grant would be matched by in-kind contributions.
Well, it’s not a lie and it’s not a magic trick. There is such a thing as in-kind contributions that can be used to match grants, and anything matched by in-kind value does not have to be paid for in taxpayer dollars or result in increases in the tax levy. The percentage of the required matching funds that can consist of in-kind value will vary with the source of the grant—sometimes 100% of the match can be made in kind, sometimes it’s less, as specified in the grant application instructions.
The value of real property—such as real property owned by a county or town—can generally be used to help match a grant. So can office space, or the value of property easements and the value of services provided—including the time spent by town officials on a project as well as volunteer time of townspeople or others in the region who are willing to help. Sometimes generous businesses or individuals are even willing to chip in materials and supplies.
A recent grant secured by Sullivan County for waterfront revitalization, to be used specifically for signage and access points, is one example of an application that used such in-kind matching. In-kind matching values included time spent on the project by the Delaware River Greenway and town highway superintendents.
The recent Consolidated Funding Application submitted for Narrowsburg, NY’s Big Eddy Esplanade Waterfront Revitalization project is another example. It matches the approximately $106,000 applied for with categories including the value of the municipal land most of the project will occupy; the value of easements donated by owners of Main Street buildings, and the value of project management services donated by NYC/Milanville architect Joe Levine of Bone Levine architects; the value of town officials’ time; the value of services provided by Kathy Michell (who is also the town clerk) in her capacity as environmental consultant. And Tompkins Bluestone of Hancock, NY has, with extraordinary generosity, offered to provide some of the bluestone needed to construct retaining walls for the terracing as a match.
The bottom line is that when the people of a community all pull together to make something happen, they can leverage free money into a substantial investment in the future—creating improvements in the quality of life, stimulating tourism and attracting new home buyers. That in turn will boost tax revenues going forward, with little or no increase in taxes required.
But in order to do that, people need to be thinking in terms of possibilities, in terms of what can be done, not in terms of limitations. And they need to be thinking in terms of what contribution they can make to the town, not in terms of the fear that the town is going to take something from them. Instead of turning down free money, let’s inventory our talents and resources, see if there is something we can offer to a town project, and become part of the in-kind matching process. If you stop and think about your own abilities, you might be surprised how helpful you can be.