Municipal leaders poring over guidance to pinpoint projects to be funded through American Rescue Plan
The managers of Genesee County’s three largest municipalities are exploring the best ways to spend a windfall of federal dollars via the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
Also called the COVID-19 Stimulus Package or American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden on March 11. It is intended to help the United States recover from the adverse economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing recession.
While the exact amounts to be allocated to towns and villages have yet to be determined, it has been reported that Genesee County will receive slightly more than $11 million, the City of Batavia will receive between $1.57 and $2.5 million, and the Town of Batavia will receive about $750,000.
Formal guidance on how the money may be used was released earlier this week in the form of a 151-page document.
According to published reports, half of the money is available now and the other half will come 12 months from now. Among the qualifying uses are public health, assistance to businesses and families, replenishment of public sector revenue and enhanced compensation for essential employees.
Funds also can be utilized for water and sewer system infrastructure and increasing access to broadband internet – items that local governmental leaders seem to be focusing upon.
“We will be having a discussion with the legislature later on this month at a meeting to give some rough suggestions,” Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said. “I haven’t come up with dollar amounts for each bucket but I already have been looking at areas to put this money towards – water infrastructure, broadband infrastructure, jail infrastructure and some possible economic development initiatives as well.”
Landers called it a “one-time allocation of revenues,” emphasizing that the money can’t be used to reduce property taxes.
He said the county needs to upgrade the infrastructure in both the Phase 2 and Phase 3 Water Project, and is looking at ways to assist towns with a countywide broadband solution.
“We still have a lot of pockets within our county that don’t have access to high speed internet,” he said. “Possibly, we can utilize some of this money to help fill those gaps.”
CITY OF BATAVIA
In Batavia, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said she will be presenting a plan to City Council to allocate the CARES funds to specific projects that could include water, sewer, downtown parking rehabilitation and equipment purchases.
She, too, said these are one-time revenues and, as such, will be recommending “that they should be used for one-time purchases, not continuing operations.”
Tabelski noted that the city just ended its 2020-21 fiscal year (on March 31) and is starting an audit next week.
“So, unlike the county and town, with fiscal years that run from January through December, we need to finish the audit to evaluate the 2020-21 fiscal year final revenue,” she said.
TOWN OF BATAVIA
At the Town of Batavia, Supervisor Gregory Post said the money will offset lost revenue, enabling the town board "to allocate the balance to specific needs, which we are identifying right now to see what qualifies.”
Post indicated that expanding broadband and high-speed internet is at the top of the list.
He also said the money can help the town recover from the lack of upgrades to its comprehensive, solar, land use and agricultural protection plans.
“Furthermore, we would like to develop the scale and scope of how we can maintain all of the services to the community through a virtual town hall, and not having to expend any tax dollars in brick and mortar facilities that are not able to be used in the event of another pandemic or other similar circumstance,” he offered.
Post acknowledged the recent increase in property assessments, pledging to find ways “to best serve the community and keep taxes flat or attenuate any of the expenses incurred during COVID.”
On a national level, it has been reported that some states with Republican governors or legislative majorities have filed lawsuits in an effort to strike down the provision that the funds can’t be used for tax relief – on grounds that the stipulation violates the rights of individual states.