BELOIT—Specifics on how the City of Beloit will spend its federal pandemic aid aren’t yet known, but one thing is certain: The Beloit City Council and city staff want the intended uses for the “once in a lifetime” sum to have a lasting impact on residents and businesses across Beloit.
The council hosted a workshop on Monday night that saw around a dozen residents in attendance as Finance Director/Interim City Clerk-Treasurer Eric Miller and Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther explained aspects of the city’s major windfall in aid.
Beloit was allocated $15.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars, with the city already receiving a $7.6 million installment in July. The second installment is expected to follow in the coming months. All federal assistance funds must be allocated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026, per federal regulations.
At Monday’s meeting, Miller, Luther and councilors stressed the need to thoughtfully and equitably allocate the funding to net the greatest impact citywide.
“We need to make them count we most likely won’t see these types of funds in our lifetime again so we need to evaluate what projects will have the most lasting impact on the community,” Miller said. “This is a very deliberate approach—We are not in any hurry to spend the money. There’s time to evaluate the long-term impacts.
Funding use requirements include: Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic or its negative economic impacts; provide premium pay to essential workers during the public health emergency; revenue reduction relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year prior to the pandemic; make necessary investments in water, sewer, stormwater and broadband infrastructure.
Possible options included in the ongoing 2022 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) budget draft that could be supplemented by federal dollars include the Elm, Oak and Roosevelt streets redesign projects; Beloit Police Department tactical operations equipment and City Hall air handling system; and ambulance replacement for the Beloit Fire Department.
The handful of example projects represent a “very small percentage of the total” funding allocated to Beloit, Luther said.
But all those options mentioned Monday were examples of existing projects in the 2022 budget that would be eligible for funding, not specific funding goals.
The city will use various criteria in determining how to spend the funds, officials said, guided by specific needs, including but not limited to: lead water service replacements; census tracts hardest hit by COVID-19; watermain replacements of shallow pipes; areas prone to watermain breaks; fire flows; regulatory compliance; roadway conditions and the impact on future economic development and housing.
“This is the first step in what is likely to be a fairly lengthy process,” Luther said. “This is a once in a lifetime and career opportunity and we want to deliberate and thoughtful. Determining how we can best stretch and leverage the dollars for long-range improvements is something we want to consider.”
A budget amendment to the CIP plan for 2022 is expected to be needed to accommodate any inclusion of ARPA dollars in the city’s fiscal plans, with the budget to be presented at the Oct. 4 council meeting followed by a public hearing and possible budget adoption in early November.
Councilor Kevin Leavy said the city needed to consider all possible uses for funding before making a decision.
“We need to make sure that whatever we do with these dollars that we look at the entire city, not only for our residents but also for our businesses, too,” Leavy said. I think we need to look at all aspects from residential to businesses and not just certain groups.”
To determine how infrastructure dollars might be allocated, Luther said the city may start a request for proposals process to examine possible water and sewer extensions to have a benchmark prior to allocating funding.
“We are hoping to get those out by the end of the year,” Luther said, with anticipated responses expected in 2022.