Flint, MI—Flint City Council will consider adopting its proposed American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation plan tonight, according to the body’s Oct. 24, 2022 Special Affairs Committee agenda.

The possible adoption comes on the heels of a budget presentation from the council’s ARPA ad hoc committee on Oct. 17.

During that meeting, committee chairs Councilwoman Judy Priestley and Councilwoman Dr. Ladel Lewis shared a line-item response to Mayor Sheldon Neeley’s proposed ARPA budget from June of this year.

“We heard the community. The community wants their homes fixed,” said Priestley at the time. “The community wants their youth trained. They want health programs, and yes we do need some city services to be upgraded.”

Priestley and Lewis’s proposed budget shifted some funding and eliminated other funding altogether, but it kept to the mayor’s original spending categories around items like neighborhood improvement and public safety.

The Oct. 17 meeting lost quorum before any action could be taken on the proposal.

At a subsequent Finance Committee meeting on Oct. 19, Councilman Eric Mays said he did not believe the ad hoc ARPA committee had the right to label its proposed budget as representative of the full body’s ideas.

“This budget that they passed out that’s titled ‘Flint City Council Proposed Budget,’” Mays said, “It’s a lie, it’s deceptive, it’s untrue. It was two people’s proposed budget.”

Both Priestley and Lewis denied Mays’ claim, and in a separate interview Council President Dennis Pfeiffer told Flint Beat he saw the proposed budget as “really just a guide” since nothing in the language presented during either meeting was binding.

“To me, it’s a lot to do about nothing with the budget that was submitted by the ARPA committee,” Pfeiffer said. “Because nothing is binding, everything is going to come from resolution.”

While Mays did not end up putting forth any amendments to the ARPA committee’s proposed budget on Oct. 19, Councilwoman Tonya Burns did. 

The Finance Committee chair said she would like to see funding that had been removed from the city’s Police Activities League (PAL) program and Oak Business Center returned to those projects and questioned whether council might add in money for ambulance services.

“We have been without ambulance service in the city of Flint over like a 12 hour period at times,” Burns stated. “I would like to have [an ambulance allocation]. That, to me, is important.”

After the meeting, Lewis told Flint Beat the ARPA committee would be making changes to the proposed budget based on council’s feedback. The resolution on tonight’s agenda is for the adoption of an “Allocation Plan” instead of a line-item budget.

“We don’t have time to wait because, as it’s been stated, this is the people’s money and the people are waiting,” Dr. Lewis said.

Tonight’s proposed plan includes over $18 million in “Community Grants,” or funding that local organizations will be able to apply for once the allocation plan is finalized.

“We’re talking about the selection process, in addition to how to apply for the funds,” Lewis said, adding that she believed at this point “everyone had the opportunity to chime in.”

“If you decided not to chime in, not to submit your input, that was a personal decision that you made,” Lewis said. “But we must move forward in the name of the city of Flint.”

Federal guidelines require that Flint’s ARPA funding is obligated by December 31, 2024 and spent by December 31, 2026. Any ARPA money not spent by the latter date will need to be returned to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....

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