This is a working copy of my notes regarding the American Rescue Plan funds. City Council was asked to provide feedback on how the funds could be used.
- April 19, 2021, an email was sent to Councilwoman Frey providing my input regarding the $16 million ARP funds.
- May 10, 2021, City Council was informed that more Guidance was provided for the usage of ARP funds but the administration has requested more time to review the information.
- May 13, 2021, an amendment to my suggestion included a 2% pay increase yearly as well for my initial thought for safety forces.
4/19/2021 7:28 PM To: Carol Frey; Nina Angeloff; Carla Debevec; Joyce Coburn; Craig Megyes; Shaun Jaber; Shorter Griffin; Thomas Heitic; ---- Good Morning Carol, Thank you for providing the latest on the American Rescue Plan and the committee created to explore options. You mentioned a shot in the arm at the end of your previous email. I believe if done correctly, we can make this a turning point in Barberton's history. The funds available can reach over a decade into the future of our community, and I am excited there is a group working towards just that. In 10-15 years, I would like to look back and see that we invested the money, but before investing, we have to stabilize our current situation. So to do this, here is what I am thinking. Stabilize our deficit by subsidizing a year of salaries for our safety forces. Police is budgeted for $5,918,510 The Fire Department is budgeted $6,303,586 Police is budgeted $3,228,735 for salary Fire is budget for $3,730,321 for salary I believe the wages meet the requirements of the ARP (American Rescue Plan). With the safety force wages subsidized for one budget year, we could reallocate $6,959,056 of the General Fund for reinvestment into our community or provide the opportunity to focus on improving our shortfalls as a city. As mentioned above, subsidizing safety forces wages will provide Barberton with ~4 1/2 years with a surplus budget and the opportunity to aggressively tackle the continued loss of our tax base. In my opinion, our revenue from taxes relies on three things. Residents Businesses Visitors Providing structure both Technologically and Infastructally The ARP is providing Barberton with $16 million in funding, and while we look to invest these funds in ways that we beleive will help our City directly, I also feel we should use some money to direct people to other resources. Until this year, the County, State, and Federal Governments have established programs, grants, and other forms of aid that many do not know about or have had trouble understanding. In my opinion, the best way to utilize our funding is to forward inquiries to other opportunities as well. There is a concept in the American Rescue Plan, which is referred to as Community Navigators. The pilot program is an additional $100 million in funding to increase access to pandemic funding. https://www.sba.gov/article/2021/mar/11/american-rescue-plan-act-elevates-small-business-support-response-covid-19-pandemic. This can be utilized to help provide our community with access to outside funding. Over the past year, I have helped dozens of people and businesses apply for PPP loans, take advantage of tax credits, and guided them to starting, managing, and or growing their businesses. I do this using my time and a little bit of self-funding, but the outcome is exponentially more significant than the investment. I know this approach works and can vouch for the idea of Community Navigators. I genuinely believe we must focus on what we have first. Our local economics is complicated, unpredictable, and undesirable. After talking with many businesses and residences, it has become clear that information and personnel are not accessible when needed. To remedy this, we can build our technical infrastructure up. Develop an information system that could include a new phone system, website portal, online payments, online applications, and a working tracking system that is low maintenance and is accessible 24/7. Technical infrastructure can help provide residents and businesses with information when they need it while helping manage expectations and making Barberton more predictable. It can also help to spread awareness about health and other essential topics we must get out. Inbound marketing is imperative to the success of any program. I also propose we start a local business program or partnership to provide Barberton businesses and residents with proper resources. Barberton provides little for enterprises with regards to helping successful ventures start, grow, or maintain. All inquiries are redirected to Akron and other municipalities around us, leaving Barberton empty-handed. A possibility is to partner with places similar to thefundneo.org and develop hubs like https://www.akronisforentrepreneurs.org/. We could partner with BCS to improve entry programs for students while stimulating and incentivize growth here in town. To do this, incubation space is required, and we have a lot of space. Roads, Sidewalks, and Water Although there is no clear answer for road funding and likely will not be one, I do think the idea should be explored. With it harder to acquire funds for roads, I believe that we can tackle a few issues by utilizing the water funding portion. We can evaluate the most problematic sections of water mains in town and move the mains under the right away rather than under the streets. This could improve the longevity of our roads as water main breaks seem to be the cause of damages to many new roads. While Service Director Mr. Vinay had confirmed that road construction causes the unsettlement of the ground, which leads to main breaks, and ultimately leads to new roads being destroyed shortly after completion. If locations of the most problematic water mains and the need for sidewalks line up, we can fund new sidewalks as well. Broadband Being in the tech field, I understand the need for reliable broadband. Reliability could be defined in many forms—speed, consistency, and accessibility, to name a few. During the pandemic, many families were and still are at a disadvantage due to the lack of an internet connection. While the idea of providing broadband as a utility is possible, I am unsure of the ROI. If the return on investment is sustainable, it could net the City of Barberton a new source of income and give the City the power to address inequality and accessibility concerns directly. I would like to touch briefly talk about the committee that was formed to be a think tank. While I like the idea of a committee, I do not think council should have limitations. I think every council member should be part of this process and it should be done so in an open and transparent manner. I understand this opinion is more for the Mayor to but I am relying my feelings with council now.
Thu 5/13/2021 1:52 PM To: Carol Frey; Nina Angeloff; Carla Debevec; Joyce Coburn; Craig Megyes; Shaun Jaber; Shorter Griffin; Thomas Heitic; ----- Carol, After reviewing my email and suggestions, I wanted to revise idea for paying safety forces also included a 2% annual pay increase for four years. That is an important detail that would affect the dollar amounts I originally provided. Thanks, Justin Greer Ward 1 Councilman