With increased revenues and federal funding, Boulder will restore services and plan longer term projects

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With $ 20 million under the American Rescue Plan Act and higher than expected revenues in 2021, Boulder intends to restore a number of services that were cut during the pandemic and to hire additional staff to qu ‘he can do it.

Due to the financial impact of the pandemic, the city has been forced to cut staff positions, postpone capital projects, offer fewer in-person services and reduce maintenance.

Largely because of this, some $ 2 million of federal dollars has been designated as gap funding for immediate needs, staff shared Tuesday at a Boulder city council study session.

Library Specialist Laney Jones tidies up books in the holds section of the Boulder Public Library Meadows branch on Tuesday, August 24, 2021 in Boulder, Colo. (Timothy Hurst / Staff Photographer)

According to Mark Woulf, senior director of economic vitality and business services, the most important need is in the city’s Recreational Fund. Pending official approval from city council, the Parks and Recreation Department is expected to receive $ 600,000 in ARPA funds.

“We would use the funds we receive to increase the hours of operation of recreation centers, aquatic operations, health and wellness classes and age subsidies,” the spokesperson said. Jonathan Thornton in an email. “We would also restore funding for youth programs in the areas of child care, swimming lessons, EXPAND programming and the Youth Services Initiative (YSI). “

When considering how to spend the more than $ 15 million earmarked for longer-term projects, board members agreed that staff are generally on the right track in focusing on public health and safety, the affordability and access to services, as well as community and economic resilience.

Compared to the CARES Act, the first round of federal funding that was distributed in 2020, ARPA dollars can be used for broader purposes, and Boulder has more time to spend the money. This round of funding must be initiated by 2024 and spent by 2026, while the CARES law dollars were to be spent or returned by the end of 2020.

Because of this, Boulder says he wants to think about how he is spending the money, Woulf said on Tuesday.

“We want to take the time to leverage these dollars,” he said.

This long-term funding could lead to the expansion of mental and behavioral health services, equitable access to utilities and city services in underserved areas of Boulder, and planning for phase two of the Boulder project. the city’s community fiber, which would extend broadband connectivity into the city.

In terms of projects like these, several board members advocated using the funding to support new projects.

“I think it’s perfectly normal to put in place new pilots with some of this funding,” said board member Aaron Brockett. “Especially in the area of ​​drug addiction and mental health treatment; these are areas of deep underinvestment in our society and our community. These are entire categories of services that we do not offer in this area.

The city also recommends setting aside $ 1 million for public health needs and an additional $ 1 million for emerging needs, given the uncertain nature of the future.

“Everything seems to change on a daily basis,” Woulf said.

While board members agreed with this, several recommended reducing the potential uses of the million dollars that will be set aside for any emerging need. They argued that it is particularly important to do so before the election of a new city council later this year.

In addition to federal funding, Boulder is doing better than expected in terms of revenue. The city expects to bring in around $ 157 million, or $ 10 million more than expected, according to information presented during Tuesday’s study session.

As such, he plans to adjust his budget to use city funds to bring back staff and services cut off during the pandemic.

The Boulder Public Library System, for example, is expected to receive $ 258,387 to fund a manager, specialists, handlers and librarians for George Reynolds and Meadows Branch Libraries as well as a bilingual specialist at NoBo Corner Library. The library will receive an additional $ 38,295 to fund a library operational resource manager to oversee system-wide utilities.

The city’s initial 2022 budget will be released next week and is expected to be presented to Council in September.


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