The Lawrence Common Council voted March 6 to move out American Rescue Plan Act funds from this year’s budget, and instead save those funds for 2024.
The resolution amending the ARPA spending plan was introduced by at-large member Shawn Denney, who is running for mayor. He said the move will allow the council to wait until an ongoing investigation into the 2022 budget has been completed.
The council is looking into how the 2022 budget was not properly submitted to the state, and therefore reverted back to the 2021 spending plan.
Denney noted that there had been concerns raised that moving ARPA funds out of the 2023 budget would affect public safety. However, he said there has been no proposal before the council to spend ARP funds on public safety services.
During council discussion, District 5 member Tom Shevlot had a question for the chair, District 1 member Tyrrell Giles.
“When I presented a proposal for this in February, an email from you to me said you wouldn’t entertain any resolution on this ARPA funding until the investigation is complete, so what’s changed?” Shevlot said.
Giles said it was his prerogative.
Shevlot’s proposal, which did not go before the council for consideration, called for spending $4.24 million of the ARP funds. That included $1.3 million for the community park parking lot, $1 million for street paving, $500,000 for stormwater, $280,000 for the Parks Lee Road Trail, $50,000 for facility maintenance, $1.1 million for public safety vehicle replacement, and $10,000 for fire department training.
Shevlot’s proposal would have left about $1.4 million of ARPA funds to be spent in 2024.
All ARPA funds must be spent by the end of 2024.
The resolution passed 7-1, with Shevlot dissenting. The newly adopted plan reserves about $5.6 million for the 2024 budget. About $2 million of that would go to stormwater. The new plan also calls for hiring more crime prevention officers, but otherwise does not yet specify how the money will be spent.
Marion County Republican Party Chair Joe Elsener called the council’s actions “blatant political games.” He accused the council of trying to save funds for a future Democrat mayor.
Denney is a Democrat. Also running as a Democrat is council member Deb Whitfield.
Mayoral candidate Dave Hoffman is the sole Republican running for mayor. He currently serves as deputy mayor to Steve Collier, who is not seeking reelection.
The next Lawrence Common Council meeting is April 3.