Divvying up Jefferson City’s ARPA funding

It’s that time of year. Time to work on the city’s budget! One might think that with the extra ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds that it would be easy. While the city and county are fortunate to have received ARPA funds, they must be spent wisely. The approximately $7.5 million that the city received and $15 million that the county received are a small percentage of the actual amount of requests that have been made to use the funds.

Every dollar is important, and we must remember why we received these funds in the first place, and also that there are stipulations placed on how these funds can be used. The money can’t be spent on just anything, nor can we save it for a rainy day. All we can do is spend it and be sure that the spending meets the criteria. There were many economic issues caused by the pandemic, but we are fortunate Jefferson City and Cole County businesses were allowed to remain open.

Restrictions that many other cities faced were not put in place here. Instead, the approach was to educate and encourage people to shop safely. Meanwhile, businesses had to get creative in their approach to operating — selling items as well as gaining and retaining customers.

In a similar way, the city must also get creative in thinking about how ARPA funds can make an impact on the future of our community. In a way, the pandemic might have stalled business growth, but now we can come back even bigger, better, and stronger. There’s potential to increase revenue through sales tax, open jobs, and increase tourism in Jefferson City. When balancing the city’s annual budget, we must constantly look at ways to reduce spending and increase revenues— all while maintaining a high level of city services.

Increasing revenues comes directly from the collection of funds such as local sales tax. This is why it’s so impactful to shop local. In addition to providing jobs and income for local families, it also boosts revenue —including the public safety tax, which helps fund things like personnel and equipment for the police and fire departments. JC Parks also has a dedicated sales tax which has helped to connect the community through a well-traveled greenway system.

So how will the city council decide to use ARPA funds? Over the last few months, the city has taken public comments and requests at city council meetings and is currently in the process of deciding which projects and requests will be funded. The city also has applied for some of the county’s ARPA funds, including potential matching funds for the MSP redevelopment project. This would be an investment that has the potential to draw visitors and locals to a mixed-use private/public partnership, which will see an impact on future economic growth. Despite the long process of determining how the money will be dispersed, this funding will help improve things in our city for residents and visitors alike.