City presents plan for $ 1.5 million in federal funds
The mayor’s plan to spend $ 1.5 million in federal funding for the US bailout will allow the city to focus on improving the quality of life by eliminating the scourge and helping neighborhoods, in part, with an environmental justice fund.
Last week, the joint council voted unanimously to approve Mayor Vince DeSantis’ six-draft plan on how to spend COVID aid funding.
DeSantis’ plan includes projects to tackle the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to strengthen policies that DeSantis has already initiated since he became mayor in 2019, including the war of his administration against decaying properties.
“This money is limited by certain guidelines that have been promulgated by the federal treasury,” DeSantis said. “What I tried to do when I drafted this plan was to include initiatives that we were already planning to launch and that we talked about.”
DeSantis said it has received comments from the New York City Conference of Mayors and the Mohawk Valley Economic Development District, and both organizations have provided comments approving the spending plan.
“They said that’s absolutely what the federal government wants to see, so it’s benefiting us, and it’s within guidelines,” he said. “I learned two good things about these ARPA funds. The first is that these funds can be used as a local counterpart to implement the goals of this plan, and therefore, while it is not strictly city taxpayer money, it can be used as our local counterpart. [for other state and federal grant programs]. The other thing is this interest [accrued from the] $ 1.5 million in funds are unrestricted [in how it can be spent], so it can go into the general fund, and also with respect to these different initiatives in the ARPA plan, they can be interchanged. In other words, money can be moved from one to another. If we find that a category needs more money, we can move it back and forth.
Here are the components of the city’s ARPA plan:
• $ 500,000 – to establish a fund for the purchase of vacant, abandoned and / or fiscally foreclosed properties of Fulton County, which is the foreclosure entity for the Gloversville properties. This project is a continuation of a municipal program proposed by DeSantis in May and approved by the Common Council for the purchase of 10 municipal properties seized from Fulton County for $ 145,404 in order to keep them at the away from irresponsible land speculators who help keep properties in a dilapidated state.
In May, the city formed its first property disposition committee chaired by General Councilor William Rowback Jr. – who is also the Republican mayoral candidate against DeSantis in November – to sell the properties to responsible owners willing to pay the government. minus that much money. than properties due in taxes. They must also provide the committee with a plan on how they would rehabilitate the properties and sign covenants that allow the city to compel them to stick to those plans. In August, around half of the properties were sold by the committee, some of them at prices higher than what the city paid, meaning the program, as of now, appears to be on the right track. to replenish all of the city’s cash investments.
In its proposal to create the $ 500,000 fund, DeSantis wrote that 24% of the city’s population lives below the poverty line, often in neighborhoods that contain abandoned properties that are marginally maintained or abandoned. He said the city’s plan is to aggressively demolish properties that cannot be rehabilitated and help facilitate the turnaround of those that can be saved.
“We are taking control of this, and it improves neighborhoods,” DeSantis told the council. “Because of this [ARPA funding] we were able to eliminate $ 100,000 from the 2022 budget [proposal], what we have always put in there for demolitions, as economic development [budget line], but we now have it in the ARPA spending plan.
• $ 250,000 – to establish an environmental justice fund aimed at improving the quality of city neighborhoods, including remediation of unsafe or unsightly areas, street landscape restoration, street canopy improvement, new lighting, new curbs, new sidewalks, new bike paths and other improvements to public spaces.
DeSantis said ARPA’s environmental justice fund helped cut spending in its 2022 budget plan, which is part of the reason he proposed a 50-cent-per-thousand tax rate cut. dollars that would reduce the city’s rate to $ 19.45 – the lowest inflation-adjusted tax rate for Gloversville in the past 25 years.
“We were able to reduce the credit for tree work by $ 50,000 because we have that environmental justice part in the ARPA plan,” DeSantis said.
• $ 212,508.28 – in direct reimbursement to Gloversville for actual monetary losses suffered by the city as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
• $ 200,000 – to renovate to code an existing building in a central location to accommodate a large dormitory for homeless men and women.
“When completed, it will provide safe and comfortable shelter for the most at-risk population in the community,” the ARPA plan reads. “It will also allow the county social services department to provide emergency shelter much more efficiently at a significantly reduced cost to the county. “
• $ 150,000 – to establish the first phase of a multi-purpose youth and family recreation facility near downtown.
According to the plan: “It could provide a safe, well-supervised refuge for the children after school and on weekends. It would offer cultural programming, daycare services, homework support and sports activities. This would provide a way out of poverty for the children of the working poor, giving them support and encouragement to build their future success. “
The plan does not specify a location for the recreational facility, but DeSantis’ plan indicates that the city has already partnered with the Gloversville Expanded School District and “two faith-based organizations” to launch the concept at an existing location in the downtown. The $ 150,000 is intended to finance the portion of the City’s operating budget for two years.
• $ 200,000 – to establish a “Downtown Ambassador Program” as a two-year pilot project, with funding of $ 100,000 each year. According to ARPA’s plan, the Downtown Ambassador Program replicates an existing Schenectady Town Mission program and will operate as a public-private partnership between the Fulton County Social Services Department, the YMCA of Fulton County and the Gloversville Police Department.
“It offers respectful employment to recovering and at-risk men and women as ambassadors for the city,” the plan says. “Employment as an Ambassador is designed to instill self-respect, acceptance of the wider community and become a bridge to more lucrative full-time employment and permanent financial stability. “
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