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Why Should Local Governments Be Concerned?
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Fulfilling reporting requirements pertaining to compliance, project management, and the creation or retention of jobs will be difficult enough. Why should local governments be concerned if the tracking mechanisms for ARRA give short shrift to measuring outcomes?
Although avoiding waste is an important threshold for public programs, it is a threshold far too low to gain public approbation. The ability of ARRA participants to demonstrate enduring benefits individually and collectivelyâ€”along with jobs created and savedâ€”is a more worthy aim. Local governments have important objectives themselves: infrastructure maintenance and expansion, service enhancement, sustainability, and so forth. It is in Links Of London Charms their self-interest to document progress toward achieving these objectives.
Also, the scale of ARRA and the prominent role of local government in its implementation make this brief initiative a rare opportunity for local governments to demonstrate their value as an intergovernmental partner for this and future initiatives.
Substantial administrative responsibilities, including reporting requirements, are compulsory for ARRA fund recipients. These responsibilities cannot be absorbed easily into the existing workloads of current employees, especially at a time when many local governments have reduced their administrative staffs in response to their own budget crises.
From the outset, state and local government officials expressed concern over what they feared was insufficient funding to cover their accountability and administrative duties. Although subsequent guidelines relieved some of these fears, it is important to remember that the provision of adequate management oversight and administrative support is essential for the success of these projects.
Given the broad array of programs and projects being funded under ARRA, the task of designing and prescribing suitable outcome measures for every type of project would be daunting, even if granted adequate time to do so.
Without such time, developing a comprehensive template of outcome measures for all projects is impracticalâ€” if not impossible. Only with the measures of job creation and retention can officials hope to achieve that level of uniformity across all projects.
For outcomes beyond job creation and retention, a practical strategy is needed that can combine the goal of accountability with the desire to avoid an especially burdensome data collection process. Such a strategy, as proposed here, will include the design of uniform outcome measures for a representative set of ARRA project types undertaken by local governments.
What types of projects are likely to be most common or high profile? Early project applicationsâ€”along with growing awareness of documented deficiencies in infrastructureâ€”point to some of the leading candidates. However, brick-mortar-and-asphalt capital projects will not dominate the array of recovery projects to the extent that some observers had anticipated.
The nature and mix of projects will differ from those of the Great Depression era, as will their legacy. As the New York Times article "Big Ideas, Grand Plans, Modest Budgets" argues, the portion of ARRA funding devoted to public works projects "is unlikely to transform the physical fabric of the nation as the New Deal did when it built hundreds of airports, tens of thousands of bridges, and hundreds of thousands of buildings and miles of roads."
Even with more than $100 billion directed to public works projects, they represent a Links Of London Necklaces relatively small portion of the ARRAs $787 billion and only a fraction of the $2.2 trillion needed to fully restore the nation's public infrastructure, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Although much of the funding for roads and bridges is likely to be claimed at the state level, significant amounts of funding for road maintenance will likely reach local governments in some states. Other common project types will include water and sewer service expansion, water and sewer line replacement or rehabilitation, water reuse and desalination projects, broadband initiatives, housing improvements, homelessness avoidance, public housing construction and rehabilitation, energy efficiency, weatherization, police force expansion, and public transit improvements.
All projects, of course, will report jobs created or retained, as prescribed by OMB. Under this proposal, local governments undertaking several common types of ARRA projects will also report uniform outcome measures, which may then be aggregated nationally across all local governments undertaking a given project type.
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