Of utmost importance is special districts’ access to federal funding programs intended to assist local governments. Special districts have long experienced barriers to funding opportunities, often required to seek access from other eligible units of government to acquire adequate resources to provide services. This is not always guaranteed. NSDC is devoted to collaborating with federal legislative representatives to ensure “special district” is defined in federal statute while also working with the U.S. Census Bureau to achieve special districts’ recognition as a “geographic entity.” Success of this key platform item will be measured in newfound eligibility for a variety of federal and state formula funding opportunities.
Upon successful efforts to secure a federal definition of “special district” and to gain status as geographic entities, NSDC will focus on securing special districts’ direct eligibility for fundamental local government programming, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant or population-based funding opportunities within U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, U.S. Department of Transportation, and other departments that may execute funding opportunities of interest to special districts.
NSDC also supports amplified access to grant opportunities for rural, underserved communities, and to ensure these communities continue to have a voice in urban and rural funding opportunities.
Many special districts operate on relatively small annual budgets with few paid staff. Staff at these lean agencies face hardships in submitting robust, competitive grant applications to aid in achieving their infrastructure needs. Furthermore, staff may lack qualifications or expertise for effective grant writing and contracting grant services can be costly.
NSDC strongly recommends federally funded infrastructure and community programs include, in general: user-friendly approaches, allow for a lengthy submission timeline, and provide streamlined, direct opportunities to review comments on unsuccessful grant applications. NSDC especially supports this type of assistance for special districts serving disadvantaged communities, which often grapple to pursue opportunities directed at their communities.
Finally, small districts with budget and staff constraints often struggle with regulatory reporting, which can be burdensome financial risk for small special districts most in need of assistance. NSDC also recommends any existing or new programming keep complexities of reporting requirements relatively simple and extend technical assistance to special districts with low capacity to accomplish heavy reporting requirements.
Special purpose units of local government are part of the local government landscape in America, company to their town, township, borough, village, pueblo, city, parish, and county counterparts. NSDC seeks opportunities to collaborate and partner in non-legislative forums to strengthen ties among classes of government, and within the legislative arena to foster cooperative local efforts to invest in local programming, boost resilient infrastructure, enhance community resiliency, and to support legislation authorizing programs that foster intergovernmental cooperation when doing so would enhance cost-effectiveness and efficiency for services, when appropriate.
Congressionally Directed Spending and Community Project Funding programs, also known as earmarks, made a comeback for Fiscal Year 2022. Absent the ability to readily access other federal program funds, these congressional requests pose a unique opportunity for special districts to request specific project funding. As long as the earmark program is active, NSDC is committed to providing members resources needed for crafting and submitting projects to members of Congress including program guidelines, timelines, and access to consultation services. NSDC does not endorse specific projects.