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Williamson County bond plans could be under scrutiny at CAMPO
Monday, March 8, 2010 by Jacob Cottingham
A letter sent last week by
Eckhardt’s letter asks for a formal conversation among the members of the CAMPO Finance Subcommittee on how municipalities account for their future funding and whether or not CAMPO should come up with a process for standardizing that procedure.
Eckhardt told In Fact Daily, “There are some issues with regard to financing the 2035 plan that really bear some examination, and chief among those is the inclusion of locally funded and prioritized projects.” The CAMPO 2035 plan must be approved by June 6 of this year, adding some pressure to the proceedings.
Eckhardt also said member entities are not using the same formula for calculating their bonding capacity. “It would be a service to CAMPO transparency and the goal of regional good will and planning,” she said, “for the CAMPO partners to get, if not on the same page … at least to have a full understanding of what each CAMPO partner is using for their formula and criteria for inclusion in funding for these projects.”
Eckhardt added that doing a calculation based on the past is not particularly helpful for smaller entities. Speaking specifically about
She said, “One solution I floated at the last meeting was, ‘Why don’t we say the ramifications of having projects in there that are supposedly locally funded and prioritized is that they aren’t eligible for federal funding?’ And I asked Commissioner Long if she was amenable to that … and she said absolutely not.” Long did not respond to inquiries about this interaction.
Eckhardt suggests one can infer that
Joe Cantalupo, CAMPO’s executive director, told In Fact Daily that his job makes him unable to make any inferences from Eckhardt’s letter. “When I read the letter, because of my job, I have to take it at face value,” he said. He did acknowledge that “at the last board meeting there was some concern raised and some discussion over how involved the transportation policy board and/or CAMPO staff should be in standardizing estimates of local funding including bonding capacity,” and said currently there is no standard.
“The question was, if you allow local governments to put local projects in the plan, are you creating an advantage or disadvantage for any one community based on what their projected bonding capacity could be?” Cantalupo said. “The next question is, if you are creating an advantage or disadvantage, should CAMPO staff be involved in standardizing the calculations for bonding capacity? That’s sort of the question that’s looming.” He said he wanted to be clear that he wasn’t making any connections between this discussion and the letter from Eckhardt’s office.
Because of the way in which transportation funds are funneled from the federal government through the state and then to metropolitan planning organizations, there is some concern that a municipality projecting large bonding capacities, and thus more local projects in the CAMPO plan, may be positioning itself to gather more federal funds. Cantalupo said, “One could argue that a local government that’s able to put more projects in the plan has an advantage when it comes time for funding,” though he cautioned that “there are a couple of hurdles that must be overcome before that, so I tend to not think of it as a huge advantage.”
The next CAMPO board meeting is tonight at 6pm at the
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