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Expanded Budget Committee Meets to Discuss American Rescue Plan Funds

Tompkins County is set to receive a total of nearly $20 million in one-time relief funding from the Federal American Rescue Plan (ARP). The Tompkins County Legislature held a meeting of its Expanded Budget Committee (all Legislators were present, save Glenn Morey who was excused) to discuss the current financial and operational state of the County government and to discuss potential use of the newly available funds.

Ryan Gregoire, the Legislative Director of the New York State Association of Counties joined the meeting virtually from Albany to share details on the funding and the rules associated with it for County governments. Gregoire’s presentation included details on restrictions for use, perspective on how other Counties are looking at these one-time appropriations, and the deadlines for funding commitments and delivery to be made (December of 2024 & 2026 respectively). Gregoire noted that having a documented process of determining eligible use of the funds will be critical anticipating future Federal Government audits of the funding use. (Watch Gregoire’s presentation here: https://youtu.be/M-_SrM-n8vU?t=76).

Legislator and Budget Capital and Personnel Committee Chair Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing) questioned Gregoire on how these funds could be used to support housing, Gregoire interpreted the rules as allowing funding to be used for affordable or supporting housing if it is in a qualified census tract or provided to individuals or populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 pandemic.

Interim County Administrator Lisa Holmes provided an outline of existing Capital Program (including facilities and organizational physical infrastructure) plans as well as opportunities and needs brought forth by County department leadership and County Administration. Holmes’ outline included funding that could be designated for expenses related to the Reimagining Public Safety plan in collaboration with the City of Ithaca. (Watch Holmes’ presentation here: https://youtu.be/M-_SrM-n8vU?t=7226).

Deputy County Administrator Amie Hendrix presented a calculation of the County’s lost revenue during the pandemic and further details on the required administrative and compliance mechanisms to account for the spending of the funds. The lost revenue calculation is based on a formula offered in the guidance included in the American Rescue Plan act. The total amount of lost revenue calculated using this formula at this time is $27.4 million. This calculation would allow the County to use the lost revenue calculation to justify receipt of the available ARP funds. (Watch Hendrix’s presentation here: https://youtu.be/M-_SrM-n8vU?t=4283).

Legislator Mike Lane (D-Dryden) suggested that the County consider supporting other local municipalities receiving ARP funding with the administrative and reporting requirements, and Legislature Chairwoman Leslyn McBean-Clairborne (D-Ithaca) encouraged staff to bring forth a roster of needs to effectively administer the County funds. Legislator Anne Koreman (D-Ulysses) suggested that the rollout of funds focused on those most in need is just as critical as the auditing of the funds.

County Finance Director Rick Snyder presented on the current fund balances, including the County’s general fund and fund balances kept for the Capital Program and enterprise funds with different revenue sources, such as the Airport and Solid Waste fund. (Snyder’s presentation can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/M-_SrM-n8vU?t=2288).

A summary of responses to a recent County-wide survey was presented by Communications Director Dominick Recckio. Nearly 2,000 individuals completed the survey, providing perspective on who was most negatively impacted by the pandemic and what should be prioritized for the spending. Respondents ranked individuals and families who lost work as the most negatively impacted group, followed by front line and/or essential workers. Legislator Dawson noted the limitations of the survey, where it only surveyed on uses for the funds approved in the text of the ARP. (Recckio’s presentation can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/M-_SrM-n8vU?t=9959)

Legislators agreed that after receiving this volume of information related to the funds they should plan to meet again. Another meeting of the Expanded Budget Committee has been scheduled for July 19 at 5:30pm for further discussion on the topic of the American Rescue Plan funds. 

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