Merger Study Funding On The Horizon? Local Government Innovation Council & Innovation Fund

Hattip to the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission for news about the governor's $45 million budget for the Innovation Fund. This appears to be from Greater Ohio, but its website seems a bit stale - I'm guessing there are some organizational/transitional/technical/PR/marketing issues yet to be smoothed out but here's the relevant text:

The Innovation Fund marks an important step in the right direction toward strategic and thoughtful government restructuring in Ohio, and will ultimately incentivize a move toward regionalism and intelligent land use.

The Innovation Fund will provide loans and grants to political subdivisions for the purpose of rethinking current governmental structures and facilitating consolidations, mergers, and other approaches to providing services in a more efficient manner.   At current funding levels, this initiative will fund at least 90 different initiatives during the one-year program period.  All political subdivisions of the state are eligible to apply for awards, so libraries, Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health (ADMH) boards, cities, and schools are all eligible.

The Innovation Fund will be managed by a fifteen member Local Government Innovation Council (LGIC) that will establish competitive criteria and award funding to be used for the purchase of equipment, facilities, or for implementation costs involved in changing local government functions.  The LGIC will establish guidelines for scoring applications that will impact the types of proposals applicants make.  Loans will be repaid by recipients using savings achieved from the proposed projects. The LGIC can also award a limited number of grants.  Funding awards will not exceed more than $100,000 to an individual political subdivision or more than $500,000 per project that includes multiple partners.  The LGIC will accept its first round of proposals on March 1, 2012 and announce awards by July 1, 2012.  Funding will continue quarterly, thereafter until July 1, 2013.

Greater Ohio will continue to follow this program and provide suggestions for refining the statutory language and programmatic structure to improve outcomes.  If your local government decides to compete for this award, please let us know how the process goes and what refinements would make the program easier to use and more likely to achieve the goal of thoughtful, pragmatic government structuring.  We are grateful to the Governor and General Assembly for approving this program.
I look forward to putting forth a resolution that places this opportunity on the Pepper Pike radar now.  As it is, I've inquired about whether we will be asked to put money toward the current merger study activities, but have yet to receive a definitive answer (or see one in the media).

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