Flint, MI — Mayor Sheldon Neeley’s team presented a drafted plan to spend millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act funds, but for most of the Flint City Council members something was missing — Details.
Flint City Council members said they want more details regarding the Mayor’s plan to spend $94.7 million in ARPA funds during a special meeting requested by Neeley, in which some of them saw the draft for the first time.
“We look at these dollars as transformational making sure we can get through this worldwide health crisis,” Neeley said during the Special Meeting on June 14, 2022. “I pet named this budget blessed to be a blessing to the residents of the City of Flint to help them recover from the challenges in which we face.”
Neeley met with council members to present ARPA plans that the council had sought out for weeks. According to the proposed document, the city would prioritize housing and blight elimination, economic development, public safety, public health, and infrastructure.
Though council members did agree that these priority areas should be a focus, the proposed draft was unclear as to exactly what the funding would be spent on.
“Where are the details guys? Where are the details?” asked Flint City Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer. “I want to know the details. This is the first time I’m seeing this. You want us to give you 2.8-million-dollars for neighborhood cleanup. What does that mean? Are we buying stuff? Are we hiring people? This is a great outline, but if you want us to just allocate to these buckets without details, it’s a hard no.”
In the drafted plan, at least $69.5 million would be spent on the above priority areas out of the $94.7-million in ARPA funds.
Flint City Councilwoman Tonya Burns said the draft lacked transparency and she also questioned its timeliness.
“Pictures are nice. I like them and it’s a cute pie chart but there are no details,” Burns echoed. “I can’t imagine a more disrespectful way to present this to us.”
Despite the lack of details, both Flint City Council members Ladel Lewis and Quincy Murphy said it’s a start.
“We didn’t want to make any moves or resolutions to put forth money before coming up with a plan,” Lewis said. “So, this is a start. I trust this is not the finalized budget and we can definitely start with this. It did not come when we expected it to, but we have it now.”
Neeley’s plan includes an overview of where the administration thinks funding should be allocated based on community input and information his administration received from council members, including the five priority areas.
The council is being asked to support $34,470,000 for housing and blight elimination, $11,575,000 for economic development, $10,200,000 for public safety, $6,600,000 for public health and $6,655,000 for infrastructure.
“To me, the presentation is detailed when it comes down to where you want to spend the money,” Murphy said to Neeley during the June 14 meeting. “It’s not lined item detailed and it sounds like that’s what my colleagues want to see.”
Murphy noted that he supports Neeley’s plans to demolish vacant and blighted properties, city cleanup, plans for residential and mixed-use projects, foreclosure avoidance, plans to provide water bill relief, and investing in parks.
In March of 2021, the city learned that it would be receiving $94.7 million in ARPA funds as part of a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package intended to aid the country in recovering from the pandemic. The money has specific eligible uses outlined in a 437-page document.
Neeley assured council members that the plan was a beginning and that his team is still working on it.
It is unclear when another draft will come before the whole City Council again. Flint City Councilman Eric Mays did inquire if a meeting is requested for next week, would Neeley be available. The question was not answered.
Neeley did say council members can set up a time to talk to his administration about more in-depth details.
“We heard from council people. We heard from residents,” Neeley said. “People should not receive these dollars because they are a friend of a friend or because they want to be able to galvanize different things or pay to play opportunity for some. These dollars will definitely not miss [their] mark under this administration. I welcome your input. We want to make sure we have solutions and not preach on the problem.”