An audit of Loudoun County government’s program to apply for and manage state and federal grant money has found a growing, successful program but with room for improvement.
According to a report from auditing firm SC&H Group, in fiscal year 2018 the county brought in about $54.7 million in grants—$34.1 million from the state, and another $20.6 million from the federal government.
“It’s a new function, and it’s moving in the right direction,” reported SC&H Principal Matt Simons to the Board of Supervisors’ finance committee June 17. “It’s led by motivated people who are interested in its success, it’s becoming a scalable operation, and overall we feel like the county is doing the right things.”
That was the year that supervisors added a grants coordinator position to the county’s staff, today Shalom Black. There are also other staff members and contractors in the Department of Management and Budget and Department of Finance and Procurement who oversee grants, among their other responsibilities.
But, Simons said, his firm found some space for improvement in how the county manages the grants it takes in—particularly around centralizing and standardizing that work. He said the county currently uses a variety of systems and programs for tracking that information, which could allow “inconsistent and potentially inaccurate information.”
“This can not only impact the data reliability, but also management functions and management decisions, as well as grant reporting,” Simons said.
There are also differences across different county departments, both in how they manage grants and the resources they have to seek new ones. In the world of grant funding, grantors often have a heavy focus on reporting how grant money was used after it was awarded. Simons said currently that information could be inconsistent among different departments and grants.
“This doesn’t only impact completeness or accuracy of information, it can also impact compliance and potentially the ability to receive grant funds in the future,” he said.
Finance committee Chairman Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said it sounded like county staff members needed more resources to manage those grants, and Director of Management and Budget Erin McLellan said it’s likely county staff members will ask for those resources in the next county budget.
Letourneau said the $54.7 million, from about 243 grants, “is a pretty sizable chunk of money, and also gets to how much cost savings we’re getting out of that, because that’s money we won’t have to allocate from local tax money.”
Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) agreed it would be a worthy investment.
“When you’re talking about the kind of money that you said we are receiving as a county, it’s more than worth us investing,” Buffington said.