ATLANTA -- Two groups plan to bring American public finance techniques to Eastern Europe, starting in Bulgaria next week, with a series of five-day workshops focusing on environmental projects.
According to Paul Markowitz, project director at the Montpelier, Vt.based Institute for Sustainable Communities, the first of at least three workshops in the region will be held in Veliko Turnovo, a medium-sized town in the northeast part of Bulgaria.
Rae Logan, director of the Louisiana State Bond Commission, and Bill Penn, former executive director of the Rhode Island Clean Water Financing Authority, will lead the Bulgarian session, Markowitz said.
Following next week's seminar, a workshop has been planned in Hungary in early December and in Romania in March 1995, Markowitz said. Later on next year, he said, the institute hopes to sponsor workshops in the Slovak Republic and Poland.
Markowitz said the focus of each of the sessions will be local governments' financing of environmental projects. Participants will include national and local officials, citizens, and community activists.
"The idea of credit is a behind new concept to most of the people involved in this program," he said. "Our goal is to introduce, the fundamentals of public finance to officials who have had no experience with it, and help them apply this to specific environmental projects."
The institute earlier this year sought the cooperation of the Washington, D.C.-based Council of Infrastructure Financing Authorities to help it develop the workshops' cirriculum and find faculty members, Markowitz said.
"CIFA is committed to improving the general climate for infrastrcture finance, and the [Eastern European] program gives us the opportunity to extend that commitment internationally," James N. Smith, the council's executive diretor, said yesterday. "We are also very much aware of the tremendous backlog of unfunded needs in Eastern Europe, particularly in the environmental area."
Smith said that Steven Levine, a vice president of public finance at Moody's Investors Service, and Michael Wolff, administrator at the Clean Water Fund Program of Wisconsin's capital finance department, have been tapped as the council's faculty representatives for the Hungry seminar.
The Bulgarian workshop will begin by introducing the rudiments of cost-effective capital improvements planning, Markowitz said. The country's existing capital markets system and its legal framework will also be reviewed.
But Markowitz said that most of the session would be devoted to developing a project financing plan, using a hypothetical waste-water treatment proposal.
The exercise, he said, will review the determination of total project costs, costs of borrowing capital, cash-flow and revenue projections, and the impact of utility rates on a community's ability to pay.
This part of the workshop should also help participants if they wish to apply for part of a $100 million loan pool offered by the World Bank to assist in developing water-related projects in Central and Eastern Europe, Markowitz said.
The Institute for Sustainable Communities was founded in 1990 by Madeleine Kunin, the former governor of Vermont, who felt that the emerging nations of Eastern Europe would need assistance after four decades of domination by the former Soviet Union.
The institute is backed by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the German Marshall Fund. In addition, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Financial Services Volunteer Corp. have each committed funding to the Eastern European workshop programs, according to Markowitz.
The Council of Infrastructure Financing Authorities was founded in 1989 as a national organization of state and local finance authorities.