WHEELING – The city of Wheeling has received its first payment of coronavirus recovery funds through the American Rescue Plan, and city leaders are expected to meet in upcoming special working sessions to decide on the most prudent use of the money.
The city of Wheeling was awarded a total of $ 28,197,143 from the US city rescue plan allocations. As expected, the city recently received approximately $ 14.1 million in the first of likely two separate payments.
In light of the COVID-related federal aid the city has received, members of the Wheeling City Council’s Finance Committee recently met to pass a final budget revision to reflect changes in the city’s revenue and offset spending increases.
The current 2020/21 financial year will come to an end at the end of this month.
“The State Audit Office demands that it receive the final budget revisions for the budget year by June 15th.” Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron said. “This provides a snapshot of where we are 11 months into the fiscal year and anticipates the last month to make sure all of these line items don’t go over budget.”
Last year, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city was able to receive monthly grants from the state through the previous federal funding act, the CARES Act. Those allocations – averaging around $ 1 million per month since the pandemic began in mid-March and April 2020 – were reimbursements for COVID-related expenses, Herron explained.
The majority of these funds flowed into the municipal stabilization fund and the city’s project fund.
The US bailout plan includes provisions that allow reimbursement of lost revenue since March last year and for the next three years while the economy continues to recover, the city manager noted.
“The theory there is that if the economy improves, lost revenue will go to zero.” said Herron. “Some of the rules in the bylaws allow local governments to do a calculation that is quite complicated when looking at lost revenue from March 2020 through the end of the fiscal year.”
Herron said Wheeling’s chief financial officer, Seth McIntyre, carefully studied and compiled the numbers in accordance with the statute of the American Rescue Plan and verified those calculations with the state auditor’s office.
Those calculations through the fiscal year ended were $ 1.9 million, Herron said. This lost income can be calculated according to the guidelines for the next three years.
“The finance director has analyzed this very carefully”, Herron said, noting that state audit officials agree it would be appropriate for the city to put that money in a separate account until the council can later consider the best use for it. “What we are suggesting is that the budget revision includes this $ 1.9 million, that it be put in an emergency and that the city council approves in July.”
American Rescue Plan Relief Funds have specific guidelines that dictate how the money can be spent. Government services such as road repair and maintenance, public services such as police and fire protection, public health emergency services, and other uses are allowed under the law. Permitted uses also include providing bonuses to key workers, replacing lost public sector revenue, supporting public health spending, managing negative economic impacts, and investing in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure as per U.S. Treasury Department guidelines .
City officials have announced that they will hold working meetings in the coming weeks to gather ideas and discuss suggestions for how the funds will be used. More paving projects are likely to be considered, officials said, and several other investments that will benefit the community are being explored.
“It has to be invested in the budget again” Herron said about this particular money pool. “It cannot be transferred to a capital improvement fund or budget stabilization.”
The council’s finance committee members approved the budget revision, and then the entire city council unanimously passed a resolution approving the fund’s general budget revisions. The reimbursement of $ 1.9 million from the American rescue plan was included in the budget revision.