Municipalities face ‘Rescue’ money crunch |

Municipalities face ‘Rescue’ money crunch |

Despite lobbying from Vermont’s congressional delegation, Gov. Phil Scott and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, the Treasury Department has yet to alter its unexpected ruling that Vermont does have general units of county government and a significant portion of the state’s ARPA allocation — more than $121.2 million — should go to them and not be directly distributed to cities and towns using a population-based formula. Welch’s claims presumed money destined for county governments would be redistributed to local municipalities in Vermont — an adjustment the U.S. Treasury Department hasn’t yet made and, Mackenzie and Fraser both warned their respective councils this week, may not. That matters, because it accounts for roughly two-thirds of the money Barre, Montpelier and several other Vermont communities were told they could expect earlier this year.

Barre, Welch told councilors there on March 23, could expect to receive a total of just under $2.5 million in two equal installments, including one that based on his understanding at the time, should have arrived by late last month. It didn’t. For the moment at least, it appears the initial estimates provided earlier this year by the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission were more accurate than the ones Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., shared with both councils on back-to-back nights in late March.

Montpelier, Welch said the following evening, would receive $2.15 million in the same two-installment fashion. In Barre, City Manager Steve Mackenzie delivered the message by memo. In Montpelier where councilors recently launched a discussion about how to spend the money they were expecting, City Manager Bill Fraser warned they might not receive as much as they thought as Wednesday night’s virtual meeting was coming to a close.

In Barre and Barre Town both payments combined don’t add up to what would have been the first installment based on the numbers announced by Welch. Barre is currently slated to receive about roughly $893,000 in equal installments of just over $446,000, while Barre Town will receive about $808,000 in installments of roughly $404,000 — one this year and one next. According to the latest estimates posted on the VLCT’s website, both communities will receive slightly more than the regional commission predicted, but far less than Welch announced during his virtual visit in Barre.

The commission had initially projected Barre was in line to receive a total of $840,000 and Barre Town $760,000. Welch upped those estimates to $2.5 million and $2.26 million respectively based on the assumption municipalities would receive county money in Vermont. This week, the state Department of Finance and Management opened the web portal where Vermont municipalities may request their share of $58.8 million in “local fiscal recovery funding” available under the pandemic-related rescue plan. That’s roughly one-third of what had previously been projected and disbursement to individual municipalities are far closer to the regional planning commission’s original estimates.

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