Hobart expecting $966,000 in American Rescue Plan funds
By Kevin Boneske
HOBART – The approximately $966,000 in federal grant funding the village is expecting to receive from the American Rescue Plan doesn’t have to be fully expended until the end of 2024, said Village Administrator Aaron Kramer.
He informed the Hobart village board Tuesday, May 18, the funds will be distributed in two payments, with the first payment expected in a matter of weeks.
Kramer said the funding, which is being distributed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, could be used for water, broadband and sanitary sewer service.
“There are a couple of other projects (the village could use the funding for),” he said. “I’ve asked the police chief to work up some numbers on body cameras for the police department.”
Kramer said Brown County is taking the initiative on expanding broadband service.
“They will have considerably more (funding) than we will have, so we’ll pull back on that for right now,” he said.
Kramer said the funds could be used to pay overdue sewer and water bills, but not everyone in the village receives municipal water and sewer service, so it wouldn’t benefit the entire population.
“Everyone’s sharing ideas right now, but at this point, my plan is we will get the money, we already have accounts set up for it to be put in a segregated account, then we’ll come to you with some proposals… like a capital budget,” he said to the board.
Kramer said the American Rescue Plan funds could be included in the village’s five-year capital plan.
“You cannot use the money to reduce the levy,” he said. “If you do that, the subsequent year, your levy limit is reduced.”
Kramer said a couple of projects are now being considered by staff on how to use the funds, which could show up in the village’s capital budget or the general fund.
“We can’t add manpower, we can’t add staff, anything like that (with those funds),” he said.
Kramer said the village would also have the option to allocate a portion to the school districts in Hobart or other local adjoining government bodies if the village didn’t utilize all the funds.
“We’d like to bank some of this away for some bigger projects, which are definitely water and sanitary sewer-related,” he said.
Facing the prospect of having to pay a fee of $1.60 per parcel to have the county treasurer’s office continue the village’s first installment property tax collections, the board agreed to have the village take over that service, starting with the 2021 property taxes due in 2022.
Kramer said it would cost the village an additional $6,200 per year to have the county handle those collections with the new fee being implemented.
For the village to collect first installment payments with the software to handle the service, he said Hobart would save around $40,000 over 10 years, assuming there wouldn’t be significant changes to the software over that time.
Kramer said details are being worked out on how the village will handle in-person first installment collections, which would take place from early December through the end of January.
“We don’t think we need to hire additional staff,” he said. “We may look at an extra day, like a Saturday in December, if people want to do it in-person, if they work during the week.”
Kramer said the village would hold the property tax money collected for a short time, and if interest rates increase in the future, that could cover the village’s costs.
“We want to make this as close to break-even as possible,” he said.
Though the first installment payments will be made to the village, which will be the collection point to mail or pay in-person, Kramer said those who pay in two installments and not in full with the first installment would still have to make the second-half payment to the county.