Saline Budget To Be Discussed In Public Hearing

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What will Saline prioritize in its budget for the next fiscal year? City Council will be open to receive public input on the financial future and inform the public on what will receive priority in a public hearing tomorrow, June 7.

“I was surprised by just how stable our finances are and how easy the budget process was, considering the challenges that we all experienced in the previous 16 months with a global health pandemic, an economy [that was] essentially shutdown for an extended period of time. There’s a lot of anxiety and angst in the regional economy and I was expecting that to have more of an impact on our budget. Our finances our regularly stable, or tax base is strong and we’ve also received assistance from the federal government through the recovery act,” Mayor Brian Marl said.

The major item of discussion will be what to do with the money the city has received from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan. This $1.7 trillion stimulus package passed through a party-line vote was delayed by partisan fighting over the cost of the package. Republicans had counter-offered a $928 billion alternative, which President Biden dismissed as inadequate.

The bill that passed devotes about $360 billion to municipal coffers to help stabilize them as they get passed the economic catastrophe that was 2020. Saline is expecting to get nearly $1 million over two years.

“They are sending [the ARP funds] in two pieces. They are sending $463,000 this fiscal year and another $463,000 next year,” Saline Treasurer Mickie Jo Bennet said. “We are anticipating sending about $300,000 to the Rec Center for this fiscal year and in FY22, we’re anticipating sending a little over $400,000.”

The question now that it is passed is what municipalities will do with it and what they are allowed to do with it. Lodi Township, for example, is still seeking legal guidance from the Department of the Treasury on what they can and cannot spend it on. Saline’s elected officials are planning on spending it mostly on the long-suffering Recreation Center. Municipalities have to spend what they receive by the end of 2024, Bennet said.

City officials praised the Rec Center greatly during last month’s meeting, especially since it had to shut down during the Covid-19 pandemic for public safety reasons. Now that more and more Americans are getting vaccinated against the once in a century pandemic, a large chunk of the stimulus money is going to be focused on stabilizing the Rec Center’s finances as it gets back up and running.

“The concerns pertaining to the Rec Center fund are ongoing, but thankfully those lost revenues are a great candidate for the ARP funds that we’ll be receiving. We would certainly welcome the public to provide their input on how to best use the remainder of those funds moving forward,” City Manager Colleen O’Toole said.

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