On Monday, Nov. 16, the N.J. Division of Local Government Services (DLGS) announced that applications are now being accepted for fiscal year 2021 Local Efficiency Achievement Program (LEAP) Grants.
A portion of these grants will be used to fund school consolidation and countywide school district studies. A total of $10 million was included in the fiscal year 2021 state budget to fund this program under the line item “Shared Services and School District Consolidation Study and Implementation Grants.”
According to the DLGS announcement, LEAP affords an opportunity to incentivize shared services implementation across New Jersey’s local government entities, advancing the mission of the Shared Services Program.
LEAP facilitates exploring and establishing shared services by providing counties, municipalities, school districts, commissions, authorities and fire districts assistance for the study or implementation of promising shared services projects undertaken pursuant to the Uniform Shared Service and Consolidation Act.
The LEAP program is comprised of three primary components: 1) Challenge Grants, 2) Implementation Grants, and 3) County Coordinator Fellowship Grants. Each component is described below. Applications, program guidelines and detailed information about the fiscal year 2021 LEAP Program is also available here.
Challenge Grants potentially allocate funds to the most compelling projects in each of New Jersey’s 21 counties, affording municipalities, authorities, and counties the opportunity to compete for grant funding to support efficiency-generating shared services. This grant program is designed to promote innovation among peer communities and counties across New Jersey, and challenge municipalities and counties to collaborate on more extensive partnerships that produce shared services of greater significance than is customary.
Local government units are invited to compete for a share of $150,000 in available funds. Each of New Jersey’s counties, municipalities, school districts, commissions, authorities and fire districts may apply. Any two or more of these entities may submit a joint application seeking funding for a proposal.
Implementation Grants allocate funds to help cover costs associated with shared services implementation – including one-time reimbursable costs for project completion or transition support which may include, but are not limited to, new technology costs incurred as part of equipping a shared services program, rebranding costs, equipment and vehicle outlays, professional services, rent for facilities, payroll system conversion costs and training. Funding is based on the total transition or implementation cost of a project.
Please note: This grant program also provides for reimbursement of costs associated with school consolidation and countywide school district studies that support the creation of meaningful and implementable regionalization plans. K-12 regionalization and countywide school district studies will be given first priority.
Local units are invited to apply for a share of $3.8 million to offset hard or soft start-up costs related to an implemented shared service initiative. Local units are also invited to apply for a share of $2 million for costs associated with school consolidation studies.
The application process for Implementation Grants is a rolling one with no specific deadline. Although there is no deadline for submission, potential applicants are reminded that limited funding is available under the applicable FY2021 appropriation, and any award of funds in the FY2021 funding cycle must be made on or before June 30, 2021.
County Coordinator Fellowship Grants allocate $50,000 to each county for the purpose of hiring a fellow to work full time with the county and each local unit within the county or any entity with whom they may be able to share services to identify and advance shared service opportunities.
Each New Jersey county is encouraged to apply for a $50,000 grant for the purpose of funding a one-year full time position.