By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News
PROSPECT — Many of the residents who responded to the town’s American Rescue Plan Act survey favor using the federal funds for tax relief.
The town received $1.4 million of its total $2.8 million ARPA funds in June 2021 and is expected to receive the second portion this June. Federal guidelines for spending the money include supporting public health expenditures, addressing negative economic impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, replacing lost public revenue, providing premium pay for essential workers, and investing in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury website.
The ARPA Funds Subcommittee held a public information session Thursday at Town Hall that drew about a dozen residents. The subcommittee showed data from the initial 645 survey responses, though it received 163 more in the two days before the meeting.
“Tonight’s purpose is really to give a little information about the American Rescue Plan Act and how the town of Prospect is going to address the use of funds that we’ve received,” subcommittee Chairwoman Theresa C. Graveline said.
The plan requires the town to allocate the funds by 2024 and spend the money by the end of 2026. The town has placed $1.4 million into an interest-bearing account, Graveline noted.
She said ARPA funds can’t be used for pension funds, direct or indirect offset in reduction of net tax revenue, legal settlements, as a strict financial resource or debt service coverage.
Subcommittee member Megan Patchkofsky said the survey posed six questions related to specific uses and the seventh question sought residents’ opinions, which leaned toward tax relief.
“A lot of people wanted to see some way for the funds to be used for tax relief for residents,” Patchkofsky said. “It’s not as easy as just turning around and giving everyone a check, which we’d love to do.”
Graveline said, “We have probably have 400 or 500 comments there and many of them actually say (they) would like the town to use the money to benefit all of the citizens, and request that the funds be used to give tax relief somehow to all citizens and not specifically target special-interest groups.”
Patchkofsky said other people favored supporting a public health response and broadband infrastructure improvements.
Graveline noted the seventh survey question also elicited requests for a dog park, splash pad, walking trails, town swimming pool, road repairs, upgrades to the Community Center, extinction of natural gas lines throughout town, and providing COVID-19 testing kits and masks.
Graveline said the subcommittee will quantify all of the data and make a formal presentation to the Town Council.
“It’s the council along with the mayor that’s really going to decide how the funds are used with our public input being considered,” she said.
Residents expressed their feelings at the end of the session.
“Just be mindful of what’s going to be beneficial and not just a grab bag of wonderful things for people to have,” Jim Borboas Jr. said.
Ted Ellis, who has worked for 35 years in local government as a finance administrator, said, “You need to use it lower future taxes. If you lower current taxes now, in two years, you’ve got to make up for that difference because you don’t have the $2.8 million.”