COLOMBIA, Mon. (KMIZ)
Columbia City Council pondered how to spend $ 25 million received from the federal government.
The discussion came as the council prepares to vote on its budget for fiscal year 22. Funds from the American Rescue Plan make up a small percentage of the money the council must garner, but many have urged the council to invest in areas it frequently does not invest in while fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
The council discussed how to use the money to fight homelessness in the city. Citizens’ surveys have shown that housing construction is a priority for consideration. The draft plan prepared by city officials for ARPA funding shows that $ 3 million will be spent on this issue. The Voluntary Action Center has asked for ARPA funds to help with its Opportunity Campus for people affected by homelessness, including shelter. The group said it would take $ 5 million to get it established.
The council members discussed how best to use this money. Mayor Brian Treece said $ 3 million could be too expensive. He said the city needs to ensure that whatever it has spent money on produces results in solving the problem.
“I think there are some unique needs that I think the city should be a partner on,” said Treece. “And I think the county has to be a partner and I think the private sector has to be a partner.”
First ward councilwoman Pat Fowler said the city needs to spend enough money to make the program in which it has invested successful. So did other urban ARPA investment ideas, including mental health services and community violence prevention.
“Now if we put extra strain on a nameless person to make all of these connections and bring all of these things together, the chances are they’ll fall apart,” said Fowler.
City Manager John Glascock revealed his plan for spending at a news conference on July 29th. The $ 474 million budget includes a 3 percent raise for all employees and the creation of 38 new jobs in the city. The government is still cutting back on staff cuts that were cut in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Glascock said the city is in “good financial condition” and expects to raise $ 443 million for the fiscal year beginning October 1.
The Council held its first public hearing on the budget on August 16. He will hold two more hearings, scheduled for September 7th and September 20th, before possibly voting on September 20th.
The health department also asked for more money to keep some temporary positions. Deputy Director Scott Clardy said the department must hire investigators on the case to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic because of the recent surge caused by the Delta variant. Clardy said the $ 1.2 million needed would also be paid for through grants and the county.