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Sometimes a simple, small piece of information can make all the difference in saving valuable time, frustration, and even money. One tip, trick, or piece of advice can result in a more competitive grant application, a more successful compliance audit, a project budget staying on track or on budget, etc. Information is power. Knowing the rules and how to play the game is critical to success in the arena of public funding. Our Tips of the Week are designed to help you have an advantage.


FEBRUARY 3, 2023 - Grant Writing: Thinking about applying for a grant for your municipality?  Then make sure you discuss it with the legislative body first.  Ask to be added to an upcoming meeting agenda and get their support on the record.  Although grant applications are often completed by others – like members of a planning or conservation commission, or even a member of the community - the legislative body needs to be aware of and authorize all grant applications that are submitted, especially since most require a match of the town’s funds. To ensure the legislative body is officially on board, some grants require a signed resolution as an attachment of the application.  If your application is successful and results in an award, then you will need the legislative body (the Chair or Vice Chair) to sign the grant agreement since it is a legal and binding document, and they have the authority to bind the town.  There are times when the legislative body may decide to designate someone to sign the agreement on their behalf.  If this happens, be sure this decision is made in the realm of a warned meeting and captured in the meeting minutes. 

JANUARY 27, 2023 - Prepare for Grants: 2023 is the year to fund your Electric Vehicle (EV) recharging infrastructure.  The US Department of Transportation plans to release its Community Charging and Refueling Infrastructure Grant this winter.  The EPA and Department of Energy also expect to offer EV charging installation grants in 2023. And, the Inflation Reduction Act offers tax credits municipalities can use. Is your community prepared for these opportunities?  Develop an alternative fuel vehicle refueling properties location plan (a.k.a. EV charging plan) now. Two helpful resources are the Drive Electric Vermont  Charging Installation Guide and the US Department of Transportation’s Rural EV Toolkit. Don't forget to consider school districts, transit agencies, non-profit organizations, businesses, the State, and other stakeholders to see if they have plans. Knowing where others have and/or propose to site public and private charging stations allows the municipality to fill gaps. Start by checking to see where charging stations already exist in Vermont (HERE) and plan from there.  Also, don't forget to check your municipality's zoning bylaws to ensure they are EV charging friendly. The Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development provides some helpful tips for bylaw updates in its Local Electric Vehicle Charging Station Regulation - A Welcoming Approach to Electric Vehicle Plug-In Technology.

JANUARY 20, 2023 - Grant Writing: A good grant writer not only knows when to apply for a grant opportunity but also when not to apply. How? They invest time in researching a grant before starting an application. They closely read the funding program's guidance documents and application materials, then read through the application itself several times to become familiar with it. They attend application workshops that might be offered by the funder. They study the requirements for the funding, if awarded, to better understand what the grant administration will entail. They research information like past awards to help build an understanding of what makes a successful, competitive, and fundable application. They may reach out to the program staff of the funder to introduce the project to determine if the grant opportunity is a good fit and the project would be competitive; staff can often be very helpful in offering advice on how to strengthen a prospective application. The hours spent researching for a grant application may be many more than the hours spent actually writing it. After all that work, a grant writer might determine that an application in that particular round isn't a good idea – whether because the timing isn't right, or the project isn't quite ready, or the fit is wrong, or the funding is just too difficult to use for the amount funds being sought. However, if the go/no-go decision results in a "go," then think of grant writing as marketing your project and the funder as your investor. If you want the funder to give you their money, then you have to demonstrate the value and return on their investment.  

JANUARY 13, 2023 - Resource: The Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT or "VTrans") maintains an online resource for publishing its important and useful data, called VTransparency. It allows the public to have access to and use the Agency's data to help make informed decision at all levels, including on the most local level. If your community has a project that involves working in the state highway right-of-way, you can search the "Current VTrans Projects" page (https://vtransparency.vermont.gov/pages/projects2) for VTrans' current projects and what's planned for the next two (2) years in your municipality (and across Vermont!). Working with VTrans to align the timing of your project with theirs might result in efficiencies that could reduce construction costs and at the very least a headache or two for you and your residents.  Planning ahead just got a little easier, thanks to this valuable VTrans tool!

JANUARY 6, 2023 - Grant Writing & Budgeting: A common grant writing error is disconnection between the project budget and application narratives. For instance, the narrative might discuss having a substantial public engagement process, however the budget does not include a line item or clear description of these activities in it anywhere. To prevent disconnections, create a list of the project components first and then line them up against your project budget. Do they match up? If not, then you can do two things. You could provide more clarity in the areas of the budget where the resources exist to fund these activities – include “Public Engagement” as a line item in your project budget. Or, to help the application reviewer, you could include parenthetic reference notes in your narrative about which section of your budget funds these activities, such as "(Community engagement, $4,000, included in line item XX of the project budget)". This helps avoid the allurement of adding major (unbudgeted) components solely to win review points, and it demonstrates your attention to details. Don’t forget to cross the “T"s and dot the “I"s: after finalizing your narrative, go back and verify that the budget ties out. 

DECEMBER 30, 2022 Wage Requirements: Two types of wage requirements may affect construction projects that receive state and/or federal funds.  The Vermont State Prevailing Wage may apply to projects authorized or funded in whole or part by the State of Vermont Capital Construction Act. Public construction projects using federal funds may be required to conform to the Davis-Bacon Act. Vermont’s State Prevailing Wages are available under the Publications section at www.vtlmi.info. Requirements for Federal Prevailing Wages, informally known as "Davis-Bacon," are available via Sam.gov. When both apply, the Davis-Bacon takes precedence. Need more help in determining Davis-Bacon wages?  Then check out VLCT’s new "Guide to Obtaining Federal Davis-Bacon Wage Determinations" to walk through the sam.gov access process HERE.

DECEMBER 23, 2022Income Surveys: Grant programs that use equity criteria, such as a community’s median household income, may allow applicants to use income surveys of specific beneficiaries to qualify a project for funding even if the community would not qualify. Water, wastewater, and broadband projects can benefit from income surveys if the system's users have a different median income than the community.