At its July 12 meeting, Springfield City Council formally accepted $40.3 million in Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds through the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
It was a bit of a housekeeping move by council, as half of the funds was received June 7. The measure put the funds in the 2021-22 budget, and the city has three years to use the grant, said Mayor Ken McClure.
David Holtmann, the city’s director of finance, said the remainder of the funds will come in June 2022.
“This money is being awarded to the city of Springfield to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency or its negative impacts, to respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID emergency, to provide for government services to the extent of the reduction of revenue due to the emergency, and to make necessary investments in water, sewer and broadband,” Holtmann said at the council meeting.
Holtmann said the city has through Dec. 31, 2024, to spend the funds, plus another two years if the funds are committed to a project by council by that time. What is not spent at the end of the current fiscal year in June 2022 will be carried over in a separate fund for the next fiscal year, just like a typical budgetary carryover.
Council began discussing how to use the funds in a June 24 workshop, and future public meetings will be held to discuss how to spend the funds. City Manager Jason Gage addressed council further after its luncheon during a Committee of the Whole meeting on July 13 and there he modeled some scenarios of how the funds might be allocated.
On a white board, Gage listed city projects that might be good candidates for funding through the American Rescue Plan. These included city project Renew Jordan Creek, soccer field improvements at Cooper Park, a new indoor sports facility/tournament fieldhouse near the airport, trails, homelessness and housing assistance, and city equipment purchases.
He discussed a typical process of allocating the funds in categories while starting from established priorities, but he urged caution in that approach.
“It makes you start to think,” Gage said. “You don’t arbitrarily lock yourself up in dollars here or there and not be able to spend them somewhere else.”
Gage also stressed that the funding is also meant to help fund the city’s response to COVID-19, and Springfield is entering a new phase that is filled with unknowns. City officials have no idea where the current uptick in coronavirus cases will lead, he said.
Separately, Greene County received its own $57 million in American Rescue Plan funding, released at the same time as Springfield’s allocation. The county’s website lists the following qualified expenses:
The county’s website states that more information will be made available as it is received during the ARP’s nationwide rollout. The city, too, is building its process for distributing funds, but Gage did offer some insight into how projects would be assessed. Review factors include project eligibility, timelines and costs, as well as some discretionary criteria to be developed by council.
Formally adopted council priorities are the starting point, he said. COVID-19 health considerations also should be considered, as well as existing unfunded or underfunded projects, Gage said.
“I think that’s a good filter for you to look at,” he said. “There’s no question it’s pretty broad, but it makes sense to do that.”
Council plans to solicit public input and form a committee to vet requests for funding. McClure also suggested the importance of coordinating with the county.
“We’ve got some exciting projects here that I think we can use for a variety of things to help the community, and that’s the ultimate goal,” McClure said. “I’m not sure that there’s a bad decision on this. It may just be getting down to making the best decision from several good options.”
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