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State College Turns to Crowdfunding to Finance Community Projects

by on June 01, 2014 6:00 AM

Ever heard of crowdfunding?

Officials with State College's Planning Department sure have and they're hoping to use crowdfunding to finance some community projects on the town's wish list.

At it's heart, crowdfunding uses the power of the internet to attract people who are willing to donate money to reach a common goal.

Increasingly, towns are using crowdfunding as an innovative way to pay for public works projects. Officials in State College say it's already been tried in several Pennsylvania communities including Philadelphia and Carlisle.

There are a lot of potential projects. "We used some of the input in our recent planning efforts," says Meagan Tuttle, who works as a planner for the borough. "In the past year or two we have been working on our Downtown Master Plan and a Neighborhood Plan. We were trying to find projects that would be amenities in everyday life."

The problem is there isn't a lot of money floating around. "We don't have the funds in our capital improvement  program, says Tuttle. "Generally our capital improve program is plan for the next five years. Generally it's for big projects like new garbage trucks or new police cars. A lot of projects that are small and non-critical, they don't end up making it into the plan."

The borough is now trying to figure out which goals to fund -- and the fun part is that you get to help in the decision-making process. A poll has been set up to see which projects will generate the most public support.

People taking the poll are asked to rank each of the following four items in order of importance:

  • Public Art Installation in Downtown - public art displays in downtown could include such features as murals, vertical wall installations, utility pole art, paving treatment and others to implement downtown Master Plan concepts in Calder Way, MLK Plaza or other areas
  • Bike State College Mobile App - mobile application to provide routes, safety information, mobile bicycle registration and more
  • Neighborhood Park Improvements/Upgrades - help offset the cost of playground equipment, landscaping park amenities or electricity in the park you frequent
  • Would not be interested in donating at this time

The borough hopes to get some idea of what projects people are willing to support. So far, the results are encouraging. Tuttle says, "One of the things that we listed as an option was that 'I'm not interested in donating at this time', and no one has listed that as a top priority."

Early results show that that new public art downtown is the frontrunner.

Tuttle points out that people who don't live in State College may be willing to donate to projects they want to take advantage of when they visit. "One of the concerns is that we have to provide a lot of services when we don't have a big tax base," Tuttle explains. "People who visit can support State College [through crowdfunding] without paying tax."

It's not clear how much money the proposed projects would cost but the plan is to keep it under $50,000. It's also possible that donations through crowdfunding could be eligible for matching funds. "We would possibly be using some public funds or partnering with other organizations, says Tuttle. For example, she says,"With the mobile app we would look for an organization to partner with and then we would look for crowdfunding to cover the rest."

The borough will be accepting feedback until June 13. The rankings will then be presented to State College Borough Council. If the council likes what it sees, then planners will go to work on a proposal.

To take part in the crowdfunding poll cllck HERE.

If you want more information you can contact Meagan Tuttle at (814) 234-7109 or by e-mail at engage@statecollegepa.us.

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Steve Bauer is Managing Editor & Chief Content Officer at StateCollege.com. Steve and his wife Trina are longtime area residents. They reside in State College along with a wacky Golden Retriever named Izzy. You can e-mail Steve at Steve.Bauer@StateCollege.com and you can follow him on Twitter @SteveBauerSCcom
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