COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The second of three public hearings for the Fiscal Year 2022 Annual Budget was held Tuesday in the council chambers to allow opportunities for public input on the many items covered by the budget process.
There was also an organized rally held outside city hall before the meeting by “Rally to Invest in People.” According to a release from the organization, "participants will be demanding that our city and county leaders prioritize the voices and needs of members of marginalized communities as they decide how to spend American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds."
The City of Columbia will be deciding how to allocate $25 million in federal emergency funds, and Boone County will have a similar opportunity with $35 million.
Columbia Director of Finances, Matthew Lou, said the funding could basically go towards anything that would help the less fortunate or the people more impacted by Covid-19.
Renee Maxwell, a spokesperson for Rally to Invest in People, says, "This is a unique opportunity for our city and county to make significant investments in programs which target underserved members of our community. These investments will have long-term benefits for the entire community."
Maxwell is hoping the funds go towards a permanent homeless shelter and other things like affordable housing, housing assistance, utility assistance, public transit, mental health assistance, and improved access to health care.
The council previously discussed how it might use the money to address homelessness in town. Citizen surveys have shown housing as a priority for council consideration. The draft plan put together by city staff for ARPA funding shows $3 million to be spent on the issue. The Voluntary Action Center has asked for ARPA funds to help with its Opportunity Campus for people experiencing homelessness, including a shelter. The group said it needs $5 million to establish it.
The health department also asked for more money to keep on some temporary positions. Assistant Director Scott Clardy said the department needed to keep the case investigators hired to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic due to the recent surge created by the Delta variant. Clardy said the $1.2 million needed would be paid for by grants and the county, as well.
The Columbia Fire Department and Police Department chiefs are also requesting part of the funding. Treece suggested offering $1,000 per month for the next 12 months to get new employees to stay with the departments and help them get over the hump of the staffing shortage.
The city budget for fiscal 2021 was around $470 million, according to the city's adopted budget document. Columbia City Manager John Glascock proposed spending about $474 million in the coming fiscal year.
Glascock previously said one of the priorities for this budget would be a pay increase for city employees. He said the City of Columbia is a full-service city, meaning it funds police, fire, street maintenance, parks and recreation, water, electric and sewer services for its residents.
With the fiscal year starting on Oct. 1, the community will have one more opportunity after Tuesday to voice their opinions on Sept. 20.