CAPITAL REGION – Towns, villages, cities and counties this summer are reeling in the second tranche of COVID-era federal relief money that has totaled hundreds of millions of dollars in and around the Capital Region.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 pumped $1.9 trillion into the U.S. economy through numerous stimulus programs and direct subsidies in 2021 and 2022.
Municipalities were among the beneficiaries. Among the approved uses for the money were recovery from the fiscal impact of COVID and various types of community upgrades.
The city of Schenectady has been in the news recently with its rapid spending decisions after a lengthy delay, but almost every municipality has gone through the process to some degree.
Here’s what some local governments are doing:
The town of Glenville had spent a total of $532,567 of its $2.2 million ARPA allocation as of early August.
There were two primary uses of the money: Assistance to six volunteer fire departments in town and purchase of property for the planned Legacy Park at 339 Ballston Road. More than a dozen small grants were made to local nonprofits.
Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said there wasn’t much incurred expense through the pandemic.
“The town has always been very strong financially, we were able [to weather it] without issue,” he said.
There were costs to the pandemic, such as for plexiglass barriers in Town Hall and web cameras for remote meetings, but it didn’t add up to much. Some employees contracted the disease and took sick time, but while that was a loss of their labor, it didn’t increase the town’s expenses.
“I think the board and I are looking at this as a rare opportunity to invest in infrastructure,” Koetzle said. “It’s kind of found money.”
Water and sewer service are likely targets, he added.
Saratoga Springs got $7.85 million and used it all to replace lost revenue, said Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi.
Sales tax and hotel occupancy tax revenue plummeted in 2020, when mass gatherings were prohibited and Saratoga Race Course was closed to fans.
“Saratoga Springs is a tourist town, and our tourism relies mostly on people coming to the track for the horse season,” Sanghvi said.
“We had to use the ARPA funds for lost revenue. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do exciting things like some of the other towns because we had such a shortfall.”
The influx of ARPA money did boost the city’s financial reserves past the necessary level, and Sanghvi is now talking to the other commissioners about possible uses for roughly $2 million. So there will be some discretionary spending after all, thanks to ARPA if not directly through it.
“We’re definitely looking at some interesting things to do with that surplus,” she said.
TOWN OF FLORIDA
Two dozen of the thousand-plus towns and villages across New York state are listed as “non-responsive/declined” in a state database of ARPA funding recipients. In the area included in this story, there’s only one: The town of Florida in Montgomery County.
Town Supervisor Eric Mead said Florida affirmatively decided not to participate.
“Back when the money came out, it was our stance we didn’t feel our town needed it and it was a complete waste of federal government spending,” he said. “We just felt what the federal government is doing under this particular president is asinine.”
Florida runs in a fiscally responsible manner, has no town tax, and incurred no extra costs during the pandemic, Mead said.
“We self-policed everything ourselves, it had zero fiscal impact,” he said, so how could it justify taking a couple hundred thousand dollars of federal taxpayer money and buying a truck or two that it doesn’t need?
(Neighboring Glen and Charleston, both with smaller populations than Florida, were allocated $169,538 and $135,384, respectively.)
Mead acknowledged that town of Florida residents, and their descendants, will be paying for the ARPA program for years to come, even though the town rejected its benefits.
“Maybe shame on us for not taking the money,” he said.
The town of Colonie was allocated $9.48 million through ARPA.
Town Supervisor Peter Crummey said this is the kind of one-shot revenue that can make a difference in the future — parks, roads, water, sewer, public safety — rather than paying day-to-day costs in the present.
“I don’t believe that it should go to operating expenses,” he said. “What I want to do is to do things that I couldn’t otherwise do, [such as] the most aggressive road program ever. That’s the type of work we’ll be doing.”
There were some small business grants, as well.
Crummey, who was hospitalized with COVID in 2021, said the question of whether ARPA makes the town whole is hard to answer because the human impact of the pandemic is impossible to quantify.
“Looking back at the impact of the COVID and the shutdown that went with it, I’m not sure any of us will be fully back to where we were before,” he said. “Look at the businesses we lost that will never return.”
Schenectady County was allocated $30.17 million from ARPA and used $17.95 million to make up for revenue lost through effects of the pandemic.
That leaves $15.08 million.
The county has committed $2 million to purchase the Duanesburg YMCA and $1.5 million to the Empire State Youth Orchestra to renovate a building in Glenville.
“We are currently looking into several other projects and anticipate that the 2023 budget, which will be released by Oct. 1, will include ARPA-funded projects,” county spokeswoman Erin Roberts said.
ARPA has made a difference, said Schenectady County Legislature Chair Anthony Jasenski: “This funding has given us a unique opportunity to invest in projects that will have a lasting impact on our communities.”
The city of Gloversville got $1.51 million through ARPA.
“It was a game changer for us,” Mayor Vincent DeSantis said.
“We focused the whole thing on two main thrusts: One of them was getting to young people, educating, nurturing and recreational possibilities for young people in working class families.”
The other was improvement of marginal neighborhoods — brownfield cleanup and environmental justice.
The major piece of the first initiative was purchasing a former VFW hall and converting it to a recreation center with Code Blue capabilities for emergency use by the homeless in cold weather.
Fifty to 60 children attended the summer program there this summer.
The neighborhood improvement aspect includes demolition of blighted property, park expansion and tree planting. The city is supplementing the ARPA money for this purpose with $225,000 it had received in reimbursement for previous demolitions.
It also paid back some COVID-related costs to the general fund, mainly lost work hours due to sickness.
“We cataloged about $212,518 in actual expenses that the city incurred,” DeSantis said.
The town of Niskayuna was allocated $2.29 million through ARPA.
Town Comptroller Elizabeth L. Greenwood said the bulk of that money had already been allocated by the previous administration when she and the current Town Supervisor took office in January.
That included $1.08 million for the general fund, $363,581 for sewer funds, $156,214 for the water fund and $103,745 for the highway fund.
“The remaining ARPA funds ($621,527.26) have not yet been assigned and will be considered during the 2023 budget process,” Greenwood said.
Saratoga County was allocated $44.65 million through ARPA.
It has so far used $15 million to replace revenue lost to the pandemic and committed $28.3 million to assorted upgrades and infrastructure projects.
These have included the emergency radio system, the sewer district, the health department transition, broadband Internet access, road and trail improvements, nonprofit grants, a storage facility for medical protective gear and air filtration upgrades.
County spokeswoman Christine Rush said $1,343,563 remains unallocated.
The city of Schenectady was allocated $52.97 million through ARPA.
It has previously spent $16 million of that, the bulk of it to replace lost revenue ($8.92 million) and retain employees ($6.05 million).
At its Aug. 15 meeting, the City Council appropriated $14.69 million of the remainder, with a new Central Park Pool ($4.5 million) and municipal golf course irrigation ($3.5 million) the biggest in-house pieces.
The largest single allocation was $5 million to the Capital Region Aquatic Center, a nonprofit facility proposed on the waterfront.
Other large allocations were to a joint food security effort for the needy ($1.53 million); rehabilitation of the former Carver Community Center ($1.5 million); and a job training/small business assistance/community empowerment center in the Hamilton Hill neighborhood ($1.49 million).
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The New York state Division of Budget and U.S. Department of Treasury provided the following list of ARPA allocations in and near the Capital Region:
- Albany County $59,340,959
- Fulton County $10,369,022
- Montgomery County $9,560,602
- Saratoga County $44,648,193
- Schenectady County $30,165,010
- Schoharie County $6,021,192
- Albany $80,725,433
- Colonie Town $9,482,071
- Glen Falls $12,008,323
- Saratoga Springs $7,848,020
- Schenectady $52,971,798
- Troy $42,879,140
- Altamont $171,178
- Berne $283,486
- Bethlehem $3,578,963
- Coeymans $419,383
- Cohoes $1,711,482
- Colonie village $781,330
- Green Island $268,922
- Guilderland $3,492,707
- Knox $273,537
- Menands $396,306
- New Scotland $602,049
- Ravena $325,434
- Rensselaerville $185,743
- Voorheesville $284,204
- Watervliet $1,015,381
- Westerlo $335,998
- Bleecker $51,281
- Broadalbin town $403,793
- Broadalbin village $130,768
- Caroga $119,486
- Ephratah $163,384
- Gloversville $1,512,508
- Johnstown city $844,100
- Johnstown town $746,459
- Mayfield town $551,895
- Mayfield village $81,127
- Northville $107,999
- Northampton $154,973
- Oppenheim $179,281
- Perth $356,409
- Stratford $59,076
- Ames $14,256
- Amsterdam city $1,822,148
- Amsterdam town $437,024
- Canajoharie town $134,153
- Canajoharie village $218,768
- Charleston $135,384
- Florida: Declined
- Fonda $77,127
- Fort Johnson $47,589
- Fort Plain $228,101
- Fultonville $80,307
- Glen $169,537
- Hagaman $130,461
- Minden $198,973
- Mohawk $307,793
- Nelliston $58,461
- Palatine $196,307
- Palatine Bridge $76,717
- Root $171,076
- St. Johnsville town $86,461
- St. Johnsville village $171,896
- Ballston $1,068,407
- Ballston Spa $535,998
- Charlton $428,511
- Clifton Park $3,729,834
- Corinth town $404,921
- Corinth village $250,768
- Day $86,256
- Edinburg $124,409
- Galway town $343,793
- Galway village $19,589
- Greenfield $791,689
- Hadley $205,537
- Halfmoon $2,526,659
- Malta $1,587,892
- Mechanicville $516,613
- Milton $1,557,738
- Moreau $1,212,816
- Northumberland $520,613
- Providence $210,871
- Round Lake $78,974
- Saratoga 389,537
- Schuylerville $135,076
- South Glens Falls $372,716
- Stillwater town $744,818
- Stillwater village $175,384
- Victory $59,487
- Waterford town $634,459
- Waterford village $233,537
- Wilton $1,735,174
- Delanson $39,384
- Duanesburg $608,613
- Glenville $2,218,352
- Niskayuna $2,293,839
- Princetown $215,281
- Rotterdam $3,074,144
- Scotia $783,792
- Blenheim $37,640
- Broome $102,358
- Carlisle $190,153
- Cobleskill town $191,281
- Cobleskill village $446,767
- Conesville $70,563
- Esperance village $33,333
- Esperance town $164,307
- Fulton $136,717
- Gilboa $128,512
- Jefferson $81,774
- Middleburgh town $215,691
- Middleburgh village $145,332
- Richmondville town $163,384
- Richmondville village $87,076
- Schoharie town $222,563
- Schoharie village $83,692
- Seward $170,973
- Sharon $127,076
- Sharon Springs $53,846
- Summit $110,563
- Wright $150,461