Tobin Lays Out Drafted Plan for City of Cortland’s American Rescue Plan Funding

(Photo Source: Mayor Tobin’s Twitter Page).

City of Cortland mayor Brian Tobin laid out a drafted plan for the city of Cortland’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.

The city is getting a total of $2.05 million between this year and next year. The breakdown of funding shows the city spending $1.893 million within the two years, with Tobin adding the $157,000 leftover is for future use.

Tobin mentioned that the city received the first $1 million halfway through this year. So far, the city has not had to use it for emergency funding, he added.

“We had to tighten our belts last year (due to the pandemic),” Tobin said. “It was difficult for the city, employees and residents. If we hadn’t tightened our belts last year, the funds would have filled the gaps.”

The plan is split into three prioritized areas for the city: 1. Community outreach and support; 2. city employee compensation; and 3. support services for city functions.

Tobin noted the ARPA breakdown for the city will be discussed at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting. He added that he is hoping the three sections will be all approved at once at a meeting later this year.

A total of $260,000 could be set aside for community outreach and support. Of that $260,000, $230,000 of it will be for local childcare service providers. The potential $230,000 for childcare service providers will be broken into three parts for the Parker School project ($180,000), child development centers ($40,000) and at-home providers ($10,000).

“I want to be able to provide assistance (for childcare providers) because we have to be able to put parents’ kids somewhere that’s safe and places where kids are taken care of when parents go to work,” Tobin said.

The rest of the $260,000 for community outreach and support includes $5,000 each for the city’s Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and Elks Lodge organizations; $2,000 for Cortland Area Communities That Care; and $8,000 for Family and Children’s Counseling Services.

Tobin has $485,000 in mind for community-based projects. About $200,000 is in place for the “build back better home” program anchored by councilperson and mayoral candidate Bruce Tytler (D-3rd Ward), which is a revolving loan fund for middle-income homeowners.

Tytler said $100,000 would be set aside each for 2022 and 2023. City residents who own single-family (owner occupied) homes would borrow up to $5,000 (with a 1% interest rate) for house repairs and pay it back in five years, he added.

“It’s self-sustaining and it would replenish itself,” Tytler said.

The layout of funds also shows $100,000 for the “build back better sidewalk” program, also led by Tytler. This would aid in replacing, or repairing city sidewalks.

Other ventures out of the $485,000 includes $120,000 for new equipment for the city’s parks: Yaman Park, Dexter Park, Randall Park and Beaudry Park.

Tobin suggested each ward in the city hold meetings to give the community an opportunity to pitch ideas for the parks.

“We want to empower people in the neighborhood to ask questions about their parks,” he said.

Other supporting funds from the $485,000 include planning projects for Randall Park ($35,000), pickleball court lining ($10,000) and $50,000 to fund events “to support bringing our community together,” the breakdown states.

A total of $122,000 will be for city employee compensation. The funds for this priority, the breakdown states, is separated into three parts: 1. Mental health check-ups ($40,000); 2. Employees who did not accept a pay increase through the COVID-19 pandemic ($40,000); and 3. Compensation for employees who worked through the pandemic ($42,000, $300/person for about 140 employees).

The last priority shows $1.026 million mainly set aside for city hall and the city’s departments. Out of those funds, $200,000 will be used for city hall facility upgrades “to improve safety measures” of the building,” Tobin said.

The rest of $1.026 million for the third section of priorities is set for:

  • Three new police patrol vehicles ($180,000)
  • One new Department of Public Works plow/salt truck ($177,000)
  • New computer servers/accessories ($118,000)
  • Maintenance work for DPW ($82,000)
  • One new fire department vehicle ($40,000)
  • One new code enforcement vehicle ($44,000)
  • Generators for the armory ($25,000), DPW/2nd fire station ($25,000), and the fire station ($10,000)
  • Temporary stage work in Courthouse Park ($10,000)
  • Tree maintenance in the city ($15,000)
  • Ballfield groomer for the Cortland Youth Bureau ($20,000)
  • Recruitment/preparation for future city employees ($20,000)
  • Hiring a part-time supervisor for the mayor ($60,000, $30,000/year for two years) 

“Every department had a wish list, needs and wants,” Tobin said. “They are resources that will benefit each department in the long run.”

Tobin said the city could spend the ARPA funds as soon as possible, but could also save it for when it is needed. The city must spend the funds by 2026, he added.

“$2 million is a lot to begin with,” Tobin said. “But we could’ve spent another $2 million without even batting an eyelash.”

Tobin is also planning to present the city’s tentative budget for 2022 at Tuesday’s meeting, which will be “interrelated” with ARPA funds.

“We’re taking things that would be in the 2022 budget and looking to offset those costs,” he said. “The hope is that this will give the new mayor and council more flexibility next year.”