Federal funds may help restore city services
The city of Woodburn stands to receive its piece of the American Rescue Plan, and it has established a separate fund to ensure transparency in the use of those funds.
City Administrator Scott Derickson and Finance Director Anthony Turley announced the city's allotment during the city's budget meeting in April. The city's share of the $1.9 trillion signed into law by President Biden on March 11 is estimated to be $5.36 million. The funds will be administered through the state over the next two fiscal years; $2.7 million this year and the remaining balance the following year.
There are still some unknowns about the funding, when it will arrive and what parameters will be placed on the money. Derickson and Turley crafted an American Rescue Plan Fund, which the Woodburn City Council passed during its April 26 meeting.
Prior to its passage, Councilor Alice Swanson questioned: "There is a plethora of tracking and reporting that is due of the city when they receive this type of money, and this will just simplify that project, is that correct?"
That is the intent, but unknown variables also will have to be considered going forward.
"It's happening so quickly, I think we are not quite certain what the reporting requirements or even the parameters specifically are going to be on the use of these dollars," Derickson said. "But the one thing we know for certain, is that we have to budgetarily account for the receipt of them and for the allocation of them.
"This will help us have a clearer line, if you will, for reporting but also being accountable for the use of these dollars in this fund," he continued. "As opposed to, for example, to collect them in the general fund. This particular fund is set up so people can see how the money is set up and allocated. At this juncture, the money is projected to be used for investments in programs, services and long-term investments in the community."
The separate, itemized fund also can stave off potential unwelcome notoriety.
"One of the things I don't want to be is one of the cities in a few years that is going to be part of '60 Minutes,' talking about the ridiculous things we used this money for," Derickson said. "We want to use these dollars for their intended purposes, but also to make significant investments in the community that will last beyond the COVID pandemic (climate)."
The city anticipates receiving the first allotment in May or June, and it will be deposited in a specific ARPF account.
The report to the council noted: "The establishment of a new fund in the City's current fund structure should have no direct impact on current operations, nor will the management of the ongoing special revenue fund have a significant impact on Finance staff. ... Because the distribution of money will happen in May or June the entire appropriation will be held in contingency."
Derickson said restoration of city services, which took a hit during pandemic closures, will likely be among the uses of the federal funding, while Turley added that interest earned on the fund's account will go back into the ARPF account.
"Our objective is to receive these federal dollars and use them in a manner that makes long-lasting impacts and contributes to the community over time, which includes restoration of services and programming and supporting the community through the COVID crisis," he said. "It will become part of our budget, and then we are just waiting to see when those dollars will be released and what the parameters are around their use."
In addition to welcoming the budget boost, the council seemed pleased with the city's tack in formulating a separate account.
"I love the transparency that you are ensuring that the city will have with the awards the city has received and the budget process and presentation," City Councilor Sharon Schaub said. "This just goes right along with it."
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