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Are There Alternative Ways to Pay for Equipment?

The Big Budget (or not so big) Challenge

Deploying public safety or parking control technology at universities and municipalities has become mission-critical. Today, this technology is critical for maintaining customer access to businesses, safety on our roads, and customer satisfaction in accessing our institutions.

Coupled with the changing landscape of law enforcement, the demand for additional security at schools, and the need for officers, community policing efforts and technology continue to increase. 

Typically, technology deployments pay for themselves in revenue recapture and efficiency relatively quickly. Still, finding the necessary funding to purchase new solutions or update existing systems is often a challenge. There are many competing priorities, and paying for ongoing overhead never gets less expensive. 

Revenue sources may be cyclical or impacted by events such as the recent pandemic and on-going economic stability challenges. Still, technology does not last forever, hardware depreciates, and software needs updating. Then, there are opportunities to deploy new technologies such as pay stations, virtual payment, online payment systems, camera-based recognition systems, and more. But when the budget doesn’t have a lot of room for these initiatives, what then?

Sources are many, but they are often not well known

There are a number of ways that the public sector can pay for law enforcement and parking software, such as grants, low-interest leases, and financing that is subsidized by federal and private funding outside of their normal operating and procurement funds. We’ll explore:

  1. Federal Funding/Grant options
  2. Private funding as provided by companies 
  3. Foundation funding
  4. Revenue-sharing or a fee per ticket for the software solution provider

Federal Funding and Grants (Including funding passed through to the states)

One way to finance law enforcement and parking software is through grants. The federal government offers grants to states and localities for a variety of purposes, including public safety and education infrastructure. 

An example is grants provided by the Department of Justice which includes the Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS). The department seeks to encourage innovation in policing, so new deployments of the latest technology to provide safer streets, control crime and assist victims of crime are fully aligned with the goals of these grants.

Cardinal Tracking provides a list of helpful grant information and a list of some of the available programs on its website.

Other federal grants are created from sources including the Department of Homeland Security, the White House, and special programs within the DOJ for specific products such as bullet-proof vests. Congress issues legislation that allows for federal funding of specific initiatives for states, cities, and educational institutions. Public health and EMS funding can come from the Department of Health. 

There is a great deal of information online about these sources, but navigating the information can be daunting. The sales departments of technology companies should be well-versed in the various current resources, so use them as a resource to point you in the right direction. Everyone benefits if these funds are accessed and used for the public good.

And it probably goes without saying that grants do not need to be repaid. 

Private Foundation Grants

A diverse community of private foundations also offer grants for law enforcement and operating initiatives for schools and universities. However, grants can be competitive, and there may be restrictions on how the money can be used. (More on that below.)

Examples of some of these grant programs include 

Their websites have very specific information on what their objectives are, what sorts of projects are eligible for their grant, and specific application instructions.

Corporate Grants 

Corporations are interested in safe communities and efficient educational institutions and are always a good source for potential grant programs. They are also competitive and have specific application terms and conditions and processes. 

Examples of these include 

Low-Interest Loans 

For eligible institutions, there are low-interest loan programs from both private financial sources and the federal government. An example is The United States Department of Agriculture, which provides loans to rural communities and tribal governments. Critical infrastructure and law enforcement are often the targets of these funds. The Department of the Interior provides similar programs for tribal communities, including loans and grants through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). 

Department of Agriculture Grants and be found here. Department of the Interior Grants can be found here.

Loans require repayment, usually with interest, which can be a challenge for institutions’ budget approval cycles and practices. It is important to compare the cost of financing over the lifetime of programs before considering these.

Timing is Everything

Grants and loan programs are often time specific. This includes ongoing programs that have a yearly application window and an approval/notification period. So it is important that those time windows are understood and aligned with your procurement process and requirements.

How About Revenue Sharing?

Revenue sharing is a program where the client invests a reduced amount upfront in return for a contract that guarantees a percentage of the revenue generated over the course of the multi-year contract. 

Revenue sharing has been utilized by public safety agencies for years, helping to fund new technologies including red light camera systems and others. Increasingly, it is being considered by other types of agencies for things such as parking control. It’s attractive, because it means more technology in the field for less capital expenditure costs by the agency.. 

The challenge is getting the projections correct for budgeting purposes. When revenue sharing, ensure that you review revenue projections based on historical data to determine funding for projects.

Some also feel that there is a public perception issue at work here, where privatization of key functions and interactions with the public appear a lot more like a “business” and less like a service to the public. These factors have to be considered when considering any public-private partnership such as this. 

Finding Precious Time to Pursue the Money

This is probably the single most cited reason that grants go unused and programs are underutilized. Except in the largest organizations, not many full-time employees are focused solely on funding. It often falls on departmental employees that are defining their requirements and applying for a budget to identify and pursue alternative sources. 

To the employee tasked with finding the funds, it can seem like a sea of funding opportunities, only some of which apply to the project at hand. Companies and third-party services sometimes provide curated lists, but that just narrows the options.

Sometimes procurement personnel and administrators take on this process individually, and then the process is not repeated for a year or several years. That spells inefficiency and challenge. The result is that there are agencies and schools that have the need for technology or upgrades, and there are funds that are available but not accessed. 

There are companies, services, and consultants that help connect government and education customers with grants and other funding, but those services cost money either on a subscription basis or as a separate consulting fee. 

It is often said that writing grant applications is an art, and that is fairly accurate. Successful grant pursuit requires great communication, specific data on how the application meets the grant goals and requirements, and very specific forward-looking data on the proposed project’s costs.

Often the manufacturers and resellers of technology and hardware can render some assistance in pointing you in the right direction and providing some help in the application process, but that help always is subject to the bandwidth of that company and your own rules on procurement transparency and legality. Budgets, funding, and grant programs are subject to the whims of political processes, and changes have to be expected along the way. 

Don’t Forget Discounts

When you are planning your procurement, don’t forget to check for specific government and education discounts on hardware, software licensing, and accessories. When these are factored into the front end of the process, it is easier to stretch the funding sources to meet the needs of the project. 

We can help

No matter how the public sector and education pay for law enforcement software, it’s important to compare the cost of different funding options before making a decision. The funds out there can help make your project a reality, and each option has its pros and cons. Choosing the one that makes the most sense for your organization’s needs is important.

Cardinal Tracking has over 40 years of experience in helping public sector and education customers deploy technology. We understand the opportunities for alternative funding sources and have helped many of our customers take advantage of these programs.

Call or contact your Cardinal Tracking Sales or Support representative to learn more.


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