An exceptional spending plan of $ 16.25 million unveiled
Recommendations were revealed Monday for the $ 16.25 million allocated to the Bartholomew County government through the American Rescue Plan (ARP).
The county recently received about $ 8 million in federal funds for stimulus and COVID-19-related losses, while the remaining $ 8.2 million will be received by May of next year, the county said. County Auditor Pia O’Connor.
A committee made up of O’Connor, County Commissioner Chairman Larry Kleinhenz and County Council Members Scott Bonnell and Jorge Morales was formed to make the recommendations which were presented to the Commissioners on Monday.
While the recommendations were unanimously approved, the departmental council must also give its approval. The proposal will be discussed at the council meeting tonight at 6 p.m. at the Bartholomew County Government Office building on the corner of Third and Franklin Streets.
The interim spending plan calls for efforts to create county-wide broadband with the largest allocation of $ 4 million – nearly 25% of the total allocation, Commissioner Tony London said.
Under the heading “County Government Revenue Losses,” the committee attempted to remedy the revenue cuts for the county highways and community corrections departments, the auditor said.
The $ 1.2 million allocated to aid to townships reflects an anticipated growing need for assistance to individuals and families, O’Connor and Kleinhenz said.
Township administrators already have a system in place to provide aid to the poor, and know many people who might seek help, Kleinhenz said.
An allocation of $ 1.5 million will go to rural fire departments that have been unable to engage in their traditional fundraising for more than a year, while approximately $ 1 million will go to a number limited nonprofit organizations to help fill funding gaps, O’Connor said.
The auditor stressed that the $ 16.25 million will not be spent quickly. In fact, the federal government only requires that the contracts be in place by the end of 2024 and that the money be spent by the end of 2026, O’Connor said.
At Monday’s meeting of commissioners, the longest discussion came after Captain Dave Steinkoenig, commander of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Highway Patrol Division, asked about bonuses for county employees who put themselves at risk by working during the pandemic. There is approximately $ 307,000 that could be used for this purpose, said Commissioner Carl Lienhoop.
Sheriff Matt Myers called for bonuses for workers in more than 13 different departments on May 11, and Steinkoenig reminded commissioners that this one-time risk payment – known as the risk premium in the federal program – is allowed in under federal guidelines.
There has been no debate in the Commissioner’s Chambers that public health nurses, sheriff’s deputies and prison staff who interact with the public should be eligible for bonuses. However, arguments have been made by Morales that several other workers from different departments, including election workers, feel they deserve a bonus as well.
“So either we (give bonuses) to everyone or we don’t give them to any,” Morales said.
Commissioner Carl Lienhoop said there was no clear consensus on this issue among the three Commissioners. Kleinhenz asked Morales to ask the county council to decide who qualifies for the risk premium.
But the matter became a little clearer after London explained that the federal government has specific guidelines on bonus eligibility, and county officials will have to go from department to department to determine who meets those guidelines.
London also described the federal funding as “evergreen,” meaning the bonuses can always be added at a later date.
What is allowed, what is not
The Bartholomew County government is limited to the following general areas in funding the US bailout:
- To respond to the public health emergency linked to COVID-19 or its negative economic impacts. This could include assistance to households, small businesses, non-profit organizations or affected industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality.
- Respond to workers performing essential work during the public health emergency by paying a premium to eligible workers in Columbus, Bartholomew County government and non-eligible units of local government. The funds could also provide grants to certain employers who have eligible workers who perform essential work.
- For the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenues of Columbus, Bartholomew County Government and Lawless Units of Local Government, due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. This provision would relate to revenues collected during the most recent full financial year of local governments.
- Make the necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure as approved by the US Treasury.
The county is prohibited from using this money to reduce taxes, increase pension funds, or finance general county government expenses.
- County-wide broadband – $ 4 million
- County Government Revenue Losses – $ 1,190,773
- New building for the county health department – $ 1 million
- Department of Health Information Technology – $ 100,000
- Mobile Health Unit – $ 300,000
- Health Service Staff – $ 600,000
- Immunization clinics – $ 1 million
- Prison heating, ventilation and air conditioning – $ 1.25 million
- Heating, ventilation and air conditioning of the courthouse and the youth services center – $ 1 million.
- Information Technology – $ 100,000
- Maintenance – $ 200,000
- Park improvements – $ 1 million
- Cantonal assistance – $ 1.2 million
- Rural fire assistance – $ 1.5 million
- Nonprofit Income Replacement – $ 1 Million
- Sewer and Water Improvements at County Fairgrounds – $ 500,000
- Other and / or premium – $ 307,227
Total: $ 16,248,000