No matter where your local government's size or where it is located geographically your community is not alone in needing to make critical updates to your physical and digital infrastructure. Perhaps your community has one of the 220,000 bridges in need of serious repair work. Maybe the tragic Surfside condo collapse in 2021 prompted you to think about how to improve the building inspection process and how to mandate that outdated structures be brought up to modern code standards. Or, as more local governments make the switch online, perhaps your paper filing systems inefficient and antiquated.
Regardless of which infrastructure needs an upgrade, it takes a lot of money and time to make a successful infrastructure project happen. As you consider upcoming budgeting and how you’ll allocate federal funds set aside in the American Rescue Plan Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for local infrastructure projects, a capital improvement plan will be critical.
Follow along for everything you need to know about capital improvement planning, and how to maximize your budgets to get more accomplished in your neighborhood.
What is Capital Improvement Planning (CIP)?
A capital improvement plan (CIP) is a thorough community planning process used for coordinating budgets, schedules, locations, and other logistic aspects to upcoming infrastructure projects in a community. Oftentimes, a CIP encapsulates a community’s infrastructure gameplan for the next 4 to 6 years.
While CIPs traditionally cover physical infrastructure, as more governments move towards a digital format and strive to make improvements to local IT infrastructure, your local government should consider both physical and digital projects while budgeting.
Why Are CIPs Important for Local Governments?
Capital improvement planning is integral to understanding which infrastructure projects are most important for your community, how much money your local government will need to set aside to build / improve on infrastructure, and provide a clear schedule for public sector workers, private partners, and your constituents.
As ARPA and Infrastructure Investments and Job Act funds arrive for your local government, you’ll need to leverage a capital improvement plan to loop relevant federal government officials in on where grant funds are being allocated.
Step-by-Step Instructions for Building a Local Government Capital Improvement Plan
1. Accept prioritized infrastructure project lists from government departments
Get a clear understanding on which issues are seen as the highest priority to tackle by asking for a list of objectives from each municipal or county government department.
2. Consider the full set of proposed infrastructure projects and prioritize
Now that you’ve got a long list of potential projects to work on in the near future, take the time to look for common trends regarding the types of infrastructure projects that are most in need in your community. Consolidate the lists from each department into one capital improvement plan rough draft prioritized by level of importance / need.
3. Consider the full budget needed for the upcoming projects.
Now that government leadership has dictated the highest priority projects, consider the expenses associated with each. What types of supplies will be needed to make it happen? How much public and private sector labor will be needed? Considering these questions will dictate what your capital improvement budget will look like.
4. Draft a CIP based on the highest priority government infrastructure projects
Consider changing the priorities around based on anticipated costs. Was your original top priority much more expensive than other useful projects? Consider dropping it further down the list for now. Review the plan internally amongst relevant government officials.
5. Share with the public for feedback
Once your draft is solidified, allow for public discourse to take place to make sure your local government’s CIP priorities align with the public’s.
6. Make the plan official
Consider your constituents’ feedback and make changes to the draft as needed, then BOOM! Now that you’ve prioritized the top projects and ironed out the details around costs of goods and services and timelines, you’ve got yourself a finalized CIP.
What Are Common Uses for Capital Improvement Plans?
Giving major consideration to the future budgeting and scheduling needs for your community will pay dividends for keeping communal projects organized for years to come.
Here are some common use cases for CIPs in local government:
1. Considering the Most Economical & Efficient Approach to Upcoming Projects
By planning for 4-5+ years in advance, you’ll have plenty of time to consider the most efficient and cost effective methodologies for making upcoming infrastructure projects happen. Planning ahead will give you more time to consider the full set of processes and accept RFPs from private sector partners.
2. Scheduling Infrastructure Projects from A to Z
Everyone knows that one bump in the road can lead to major delays in the completion of an infrastructure project. Take the time now to plan the step-by-step roadmap for any upcoming construction / IT projects and loop in private sector partners to ensure the process is streamlined and completed on-time.
3. Looping in Your Constituents
If there’s anything that constituents hate more than detours, closed off roads, and noisy construction, it’s not being in the loop on local government projects. With a well organized CIP, constituents can see a clear picture on how their money is being spent and which physical locations will be undergoing maintenance and for how long.
Pro Tip: With government technology, the physical location of infrastructure projects can be marked in a public facing, 3D GIS map. Constituents can check the map for a clear idea on where detours, closures, etc. are occurring, and can see real-time updates directly from your government on the platform.
4. Gauging Public Opinions
By opening your CIP to the community, constituents and local business owners can give their input on the proposed strategy. Perhaps you’ll find that a physical infrastructure project is less important to your constituents than high-speed Internet or vice versa. What better way to know than opening up the game plan for future budget expenditures for public discourse?
5. Preventing Costly Expenditures
The old saying goes, “failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” If your local government doesn’t take the time to think through the full costs that will come with your infrastructure projects, not only will schedule delays occur, but costs will rise. That could translate to more debt, higher taxes, more of your budget being spent, and angered constituents.
How to Maximize Your Government Budget?
With high expectations and limited funds to work with, your local government needs to maximize the reach of every dollar available.
As you coordinate physical and digital infrastructure projects in coming years, here are some ways to get more accomplished without spending more money.
1. Automate manual, tedious, time consuming tasks
Things like filing paperwork, sending out communications and notifications to constituents, and other administrative tasks can be automated to improve efficiency and save your government money. Technology known as robotic process automation will do the tasks for your local government, saving dollars that would have otherwise been spent paying administrative workers.
Government officials and relevant private sector partners will have access to relevant documentation in the cloud, keeping the project organized and on schedule.
2. Improve inspection and permitting processes
States like NJ and Florida have passed laws to move permit and inspection processes online for a reason. Oftentimes, these are the bureaucratic processes that slow down construction timelines. Online permit and license filing allows construction applications to be submitted 24/7 from your government website and for government officials to make approvals / denials from a cloud-based platform. As for inspections, the GovInspect platform schedules inspectors automatically for relevant projects and lets them record their findings in a simple, mobile application. Not only will the timeframe to complete inspections drop drastically, but they’ll also be more efficient as mobile inspections are automatically submitted to the cloud.
Learn more about the recent state legislation regarding permitting and inspections (that will likely be passed in more states soon!)
- NJ Electronic Permitting Law: What It Means for Construction Processes in New Jersey
- Florida Electronic Permit & Inspection Laws: Transforming FL Construction Processes
3. Assess government data to make infrastructure decisions
With government management software, the data your government collects will be automatically pulled into insightful and customizable financial dashboards. Looking at where money has been allocated in the past and its full impact will make it much easier to justify which future infrastructure projects make the most sense to pursue.
4. Get input from constituents directly via a mobile application
Constituents should have a say in deciding the best uses for their tax dollars in your community. Via a digital government communications application, constituents can report concerns online to government officials directly.
Pay attention to the public discourse in your community. It will make it easier to see which infrastructure projects matter most to your constituents, and will simplify the process of making a CIP draft official.
Capital Improvement Planning - In Conclusion
Planning ahead by prioritizing the key infrastructure projects in your neighborhood 5+ years out is integral to community development. A CIP is your opportunity to determine the projects your community needs most, to engage the public and gauge their opinions, and to recruit relevant private sector partners to keep your projects on schedule and as efficient as possible.
As you consider making improvements to physical and digital infrastructure, your capital improvement plan will pave the path for years to come.
To improve your processes and maximize your budgets, make the switch online with government management software. To learn more about the benefits of government automation, book a free demo.
Local Government CIPs - FAQs
What Does CIP Stand For?
CIP stands for Capital Improvement Planning and is the government process of organizing a schedule around infrastructure projects in a community for the next 4-6 years.
What is a Capital Improvement Plan?
A capital improvement plan (CIP) is meant to dictate the highest priority infrastructure projects in a community and highlight the anticipated costs for goods and services, locations, and timeframes to implement said projects.
Traditionally, CIPs have been used for managing physical infrastructure projects like constructing a new building or updating roads, bridges, etc. However, with more demand than ever for high speed internet, and federal government grants recently being passed for making broadband and IT improvements nationwide, your local government has to consider the future of its digital infrastructure as well.
How Can Local Governments Raise Funds for Future Infrastructure Projects?
The American Rescue Plan Act and Infrastructure Investments and Job Act are putting trillions of dollars in the hands of local government officials to be spent on local infrastructure projects. Take the time to build a CIP that prioritizes the top infrastructure projects in your area, and pass the documentation over to relevant federal officials to get the project approved and funded.
As for raising funds yourself, doubling down on community development via increased real estate auctions and business registration is a sure way to boost the local economy (and your budgets!)
What types of infrastructure projects can be included in a CIP?
Historically, capital improvement planning refers to physical infrastructure projects like improvements to existing buildings, roads, bridges, and parks or new expenditures like urban transformation and building more public spaces.
In years to come, digital infrastructure will undoubtedly become a more integral component of a good CIP, as high speed internet and modern information technology will be critical to draw businesses to your community, improve government processes, and mitigate the risk of cyber attacks.