It is Tuesday, #Boulder, and I am reluctantly tweeting another city council meeting.

It's an important one, tho: How is Boulder gonna spend the $20M it's getting from the feds? Staff has some recommendations.
Oh and another nice little chunk of change coming our way from settlements with pharma companies over the opioid crises. We many *finally* get some decent mental health and addiction treatment.
All in all, a pretty positive meeting. Nice change of pace to be talking about how to spend extra $$.
Here's the staff presentation that includes discussion of ARAPA funds and our budget outlook for 2022. Sales tax are coming in slightly higher than expected, which is good.…
COVID hit the 2020 and 2021 budgets HARD.

$28M was cut from the 2020 budget
$9.4M drawn from general fund reserves
Dept budgets reduced between 1% and 25% (average of 7.4%)
2021's budget had to be reduced, too, including a few job cuts and reduced spending.…
But the year has (so far) been better than we budgeted for.

2021 budget on track for $9.4M more than approved
Retail sales tax: $5.7M or 12.4% more than expected
Use taxes: $1.4M or 13.8% more
All other revenue: $2.3M or 4.5% more
(More info on that in the presentation)
Because 2020 and 2021 were slightly better than expected, the city has already had an "extra" $3.5M to spend. You may remember they spent most of it on more aggressive removal of homeless camps...…
But they also filled some vacant staff positions, gave some $$ to the fire dept and took away 2 furlough days for staff (unpaid days off)
When extra $$ (when we bring in more than we budgeted for) is added back in, that's called an Adjustment to Base, or ATB.
When it's divvied up, that's called appropriations.
Several dept have requested appropriations so they can fully restore services that were cut during COVID.
$1,140,904 in restored cuts is being requested from the general fund, for the following things:

Arts: $167,250
- $10K for sponsorship program, program support for NoBo Art District, civic dialog strategies, and Boulder Arts Week.
- $157,250 to fund Cultural Grants Program
City Manager’s office - $18,925 for front door staffing at Municipal Building

Fire - $423,484
- $351,384 for 3 firefighters (reducing OT)
- $30K to cancer trust (fund for firefighters’ medical costs)
$29,600 for replacing key parts of station alert system
$12,500 for training
Housing and Human Services (HHS) - $25,080 for taking 2 half-time positions to full-time at age well center

Innovation & tech - $65K for 2 GIS positions, one related to budget and another for mapping homeless encampments and removals
Library (which was super hard-hit): $296,682
- $258,387 for staff to reopen George Reynolds and Meadows branches, plus translator at NoBo corner
- $38,295 for library ops manager
Parks & Rec (also really impacted): $141,983
- $51,594 for 2 maintenance positions
- $32,571 for assistant forester
- $13,818 for urban park maintenance (non-standard staffing)
- $44,000 for computer replacement and telecomms funding
I know this is all a lot and kinda boring, but I think it's super important you see exactly where your tax $$ are going.
Still going with requested add-ins to the 2021 budget.

From the 0.25 c sales & use tax fund: $94,389 to Parks & Rec
- $40,490 for special events in the civic area (Arts in the Parks, Snow Much Fun)
- $53,899 for irrigation manager
HHS: $95,042
- $38,042 for compliance specialist for affordable housing investments
- $2,500 for costs associated with that position
- $54,500 for home ownership program coordinator
Planning: $95,189 for 4 positions
- Permit tech (helps customers with permit application, process)
- Civil engineer (review development applications for floodplain, wetlands programs)
- Records coordinator (project starting in August to digitize 600,000 paper records)

an admin specialist (to help with hybrid work)
Again, super detailed and boring, but this is what the city is spending your $$ on, so care, darn it!
The city is also recommending an ATB of $1,535,100 for restoration of pay to 902 employees from forced COVID furloughs
And it's filling some positions that don't cost any $$, mostly bc they were budgeted for but vacant

Climate Initiatives – Administrative Specialist II (1.0 FTE)
Facilities & Fleet – Project Manager (1.0 FTE)
Police: 2.5 FTE
- Photo Radar Process Server (0.5 FTE)
- Property & Evidence Technician (1.0 FTE)
- Accident Report Specialist (1.0 FTE)
I'll pause here and get some staff/council feedback before we move on to Part 2, which is the ARPA $$
Yates: How much did we draw on our emergency reserves during COVID? (Reminder: Boulder has a goal of 20% of its operating budget in reserve)

Kara Skinner: We maintained our emergency reserves mostly at the 19.5% level from the previous year, and we intend to do that next year.
Wallach Sigh-O-Meter: 2
Wallach: Did I correctly see that revenues were higher in 2020 than 2021?
Skinner: Yes. That's one of the reasons we didn't touch our reserves as much as we thought we would. Those use taxes came in pretty high. We budget conservatively, bc they are volatile.
It's one-time $$ that can be used for other stuff. It "replenished our reserves real-time," Skinner says.
Wallach Sigh-O-Meter: 4
Escalating quickly here.
Brockett: "That's a great presentation with a lot of good news in it."
We've been hearing a lot from the community about delays in the permitting process (lots of biz were upset about this, too). Will the planned hires address those delays, Brockett asks.
Jacob Lindsey, planning head: It won't fully restore staffing to pre-pandemic levels, but "it will significantly help us to restore our service levels." About 75% of the way there
"We think we're going to get the most bang for our buck that we possibly can with the positions we asked for," Lindsey said. We looked at those v carefully with an eye on restoring service.
Lindsey referencing the Tipton Report from a couple years back. Showed a lot of cultural and organizational issues.…
Several projects have been launched bc of that, Lindsey said. He took over after that came out.

"Doing more with fewer staff was never a recommendation," he says. "It's something we had to do bc of budget cuts."
That was in response to a Swetlik q.
Young: How did the one-time restorative payment to staff address any inequities among city employees?

HR director Jen Sprinkle: We looked at the avg salary of employees, and were addressing ppl who took pay cuts bc of furloughs (bc they were paid hourly vs. salary)
Moving on to the ARPA portion of the night. Boulder getting $20,153,269 in ARPA funds: $10M in July 202, $10M in July 2022
Staff is recommending $868,600 ARPA funding for service restorations
- $600,000 for recreation services
- $200,000 for shelter beds lost due to COVID restrictions ($184,400 for shelter; $15K for hotels)
- $25,100 for public art
- $43,500 for neighborhood connections
Also recommended is $2,108,400 in spending for Community, Economy and City Operations
- 70.5% for community
- 20% for economy
- 9.5% for city operating
Let's look at the actual dollar amounts and projects being proposed, shall we?
$200,000 transitioning to hybrid work spaces

$200,000 for housing, human services
- $100,000 for emergency rental assistance
- $100,000 for food, childcare and health care access

$400,000 in utility assistance
$420,00 for local biz recovery
- $50,000 for microloans
- $150,000 for commercial space help (tenant improvements, shared spaces, etc.)
- $10,000 for industry data analysis
- $50,000 for cultural arts support
- $150,000 for CVB to promote tourism
And $888,400 to address the digital divide (19 of 37 BHP sites don’t have access to free high-speed internet; this will cover infrastructure costs during broadband buildout)
Good time to remind you that the fed has laid out guidelines for how $$ can be used, which are supposed to be tied to impacts of the pandemic. Infrastructure is one of those, which is why broadband counts.
Also, the internet was *kinda* important during the pandemic
Anyway, staff is also recommending setting aside $1M for emergency COVID costs. They did this with the CARES money, too, and used it to stand up free mobile and drive-up testing sites ($713,118)
Even with all that, only 20% of the money has so far been recommended for specific things. That leaves, like, $15M for what staff is calling "transformative initiatives"
Basically, we're never gonna get this much $$ all at once from the feds again, so what should we do with it?

Staff focusing on three areas: Public health & safety, community and economic resilience, and affordability and service access
That could be things like homeless services expansion or mental health treatment (public health & safety) or childcare and housing help (affordability and service access)
Basically anything that was revealed/made worse by the pandemic. Which was, you know, basically everything.

The systems are crumbling.
I mean, with ~$6M we could end child poverty in Boulder. (Direct cash transfers to families with children below the poverty line, to bring them above the poverty line.)

So that would be cool.
But I digress.
I know I just hit you with a bunch of stuff, so how about a summary of recommendations for ARPA $$?
Gap Funding for Service Restorations
Immediate Needs
Emerging Immediate Needs Reserve
Public Health Reserve
Remaining for Transformative Investment
All but that $15M has specific recommendations already. That's where we have room to play, and what council will be talking about tonight.
Of course, they could also futz with the specific recommendations already made. We'll see if they do.
"It's a once-in-a-generation opportunity" to get this money, Mark Woulf says.

(Yeah, bc the feds haven't funded shit in generations. Housing, homelessness, mental health, infrastructure — so much of it has been left to state and local gov't in the last ~40 years)
But I digress.
Regarding that $15M, the city is gonna do some outreach around it, make sure those project align with ARPA funding, then bring back specific project proposals in late 2021/early 2022
Part of the plan is to figure out how to best leverage this $$ (by partnering with other gov't, getting grants, etc.) so we turn it into more $$
Let's fix some shit!
Like someone said to me recently: Money isn't everything, unless you don't have it.
Wallach: Don't more ppl than BHP residents need access to the internet, too? Are we using some $$ to get them internet, too?
(Mobile home parks, in particular, which don't even have good water/sewer infrastructure!!!)
Yes, says Woulf. We're working on it and will bring back some proposals.
Wallach: Why are we putting $$ for rental assistance. Don't we have the NEWR program for that?

It's just a lag of when that $$ is coming in (bc the city will start collecting when landlords renew rental licenses, every 4 years).
Woulf: We just didn't want to have a gap where we didn't have $$ yet for ppl who need rental assistance.
Kristin Hyser, from HHS: We also want to use federal $$ when we have it, and save our local $$ for when those dollars go away.
"It's a preventative hope that we wouldn't have to tap into these dollars, but just in case we have to," Hyser says.
Joel Wagner, Tax Guy (not his official title): The taxes are added to property tax bills (forgot they had changed that mechanism) so there's a year lag b4 the county will actually collect them.
So to correct and clarify, the county is collecting that NEWR tax for us, which means we get it a year later. It's no longer tied to rental license renewals. Apologies; that was the original mechanism.
Weaver asking about the city's oft-referenced equity tool: How did we consider that in deciding where this $15M will go?
Woulf: We explicitly asked dept what the racial impacts would be in the 2022 budget. Who would be impacted by service restorations?

For the $15M, we're making sure "we're considering the broad impact b4 we start investing."
Aimee Kane, equity programs manager: As we're looking at those projects looking forward, we're using the racial equity instrument.
Weaver: Our support for small biz could have an additional equity component. Have we thought about that?
Yes, staff says.

Woulf: We have a microloan program for biz that haven't traditionally had access to capital.
Weaver: I'm glad to see that we're putting $$ toward mental health and addiction services. But these are one-time dollars; these programs need to be ongoing. How are we addressing that?
Woulf: If we are looking at service expansion, it can extend through 2026. "That gives us time to figure out long-term funding. Not to say that money is going to fall out of trees" but we could plan for it.
Weaver: "This $15M bucket of money is an opportunity to use on our most intractable problems." One of those is climate action. What are we thinking there?
Woulf: There are restrictions under ARPA that dictate that $$ go to COVID impacts. We have looked at water and sewer infrastructure, which has big needs, but the ARPA money "pales in comparison" to those project costs.
"We are thinking about the disproportionate impacts of climate," Woulf says. "There is a path there, but it's narrower."
Weaver: I was thinking about programs.
Promises more details later.
Joseph asks about the $$ going to broadband.
Woulf: We expect the fiber phase 1 buildout being finished in 2022, with service to BHP sites in 2023. This $$ helps us hit that date, to provide free internet, and gets it to more BHP sites.
This is the city project to provide high-speed fiber internet. Ya'll remember that?
Chris Meschuk adding: Our cost estimates were higher than the bids we got. So we have some extra $$. We decided to use it to connect BHP sites to the fiber network.
The city paying for the buildout of that fiber network with bonds they issued a few years ago. Ya'll approved this in one of the elections... 2018, maybe?
Can't come fast enough. Longmont kicking our butts with 1G internet. I'm jealous, ya'll. Paying $90/mo for CRAP over here. Not even close to a gig.
Joesph and Friend asking $$ about utility assistance. Boulder's charter forbids the city from giving away water, but apparently they can give $$ away to help pay water bills...?
"It's a creative solution to a problem we'd like to solve for folks," says city attorney Sandra Llanes. "It doesn't seem unreasonable to me."
It's basically a workaround to help low-income folks pay their water bills. The city controls water service, and (again) it can't give water away for free, so it's tricky.
Joseph: "$200K is very little money" for winter homeless sheltering. "It will help" but there is so much need. "Will this be in addition to other money we will put together?" Or is this it?
Kurt Firnhaber, of HHS: The $200K represents a similar approach to hotels we had last season. We've never had that in our city budget. Last year, the CARES Act paid for it.
"While the money may seem small, it's big for our dept," Firnhaber says.
Firnhaber: "Finding hotels that work well for this" has become harder as they've filled up again with tourists. "This is what we've allocated at this time."
Young: If organizations propose pilot projects, we could use one-time ARPA $$ for that. If it were successful, we could have time to fund it on an ongoing basis.

Right, Woulf says.
So if you've got a good idea to solve a big problem, now is the time. Get your shit together!
Swetlik: Are our boards and commissions being consulted for ARPA spending, too?

Woulf: We have received some feedback. I wouldn't say we have an explicit process, but there will be "touchpoints" based on the project.
Staff has asked to be allowed to spend up to $1M on any unforeseen needs without more OK from council. Friend not too happy with that. "I'd prefer to keep that $1M in a bucket we vote on, especially bc it could be during a new council's tenure."
Friend: As Firnhaber said, that's a lot of $$ for some dept. And it could go to things that council members might "bristle at."
We'll see what the rest of council says.
Joseph "fully supports" staff's recommendations EXCEPT so much $$ going to BHP for free broadband internet. What about the mobile home communities?
"We're setting aside $1M for one group. Other parts of the community ... should be part of this process as well," Joseph says. Let's set aside $400K or $500K for them, too.
And the $400K for utility assistance is a bit "gray." Would prefer a more specific $$ for how much is needed, but understands the limitations there.
Brockett: It's perfectly fine to stand up some pilot programs with this $$. Particularly mental health and addiction treatment, bc they are so under-funded. We can find funding for it to continue.
Encourages staff to go for that, and partner with other gov't and organizations as much as possible.
Calls out affordable housing support specifically.
Also wants to consider infrastructure support for mobile home parks. They are severely lacking, bc most of them are not part of the city but privately owned. Decades of neglect and under-funding.
Weaver concurs. "It needs to be matched by private dollars" from the private owners of those parks.
And, of course, he wants to see some $$ for climate initiatives, like switching buildings from natural gas power to electricity.
Wallach echoes Joseph (on the internet to more low-income neighborhoods) Friend (on asking council for future spending up to $1M) and Brockett, Weaver (on infrastructure for mobile home parks)
And has one original thought: Not so stoked on funding pilot programs that the city will need to ID long-term funding for.

Not a fan of the "God will provide" school of thinking, he says.
"It's nice to see an agreeable Mark," Young says.
Absolute goddess of backhanded compliments.
Young also a fan of infrastructure and internet in mobile home parks.
There are a lot of good ideas, Swetlik says. He supports being more bold and funding pilot projects.

If they solve chronic problems, money will follow, he says. If not, we get rid of them.
That wraps this discussion. Hope it was helpful.
Where do you want the city to spend $$? Let them know now!
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