Douglas County could get a helping hand with its capital projects this year from the American Rescue Plan Act.
And that could come in handy after the county’s Finance Department identified $2.35 million in budget surplus from 2020 that could go toward more than $2.47 million in projects requested this year.
The Douglas County Board will consider approving all of the requested projects for this year when it meets June 17.
Projects includes building and equipment improvements for the highway department, jail, sheriff’s office and at the Government Center and courthouse; park improvements at Lucius Woods; and a groundwater testing program that subsidizes homeowners’ costs to have their wells tested.
“We did receive the $8.4 million,” County Administrator Ann Doucette said of anticipated federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act. “Again we can definitely spend it on water, sewer, mitigating the chances of COVID spread, broadband.”
She said she directed department managers to review their requests and list any projects they felt could be funded through federal ARPA dollars.
“We did identify $410,000 in projects that will qualify right now,” Doucette said. “Those had to do with water and sewer. In January, you approved a great big project for air handling for the courthouse for $350,000. We believe that might qualify, too, so if we can put that towards recovering funding, that would free up project dollars for other things.”
County dollars retained because of ARPA funding could be used for things like roads and bridges, Doucette said.
“If we find some of those can be funded through the coronavirus recovery, we will fund them with that,” County Board Chairman Mark Liebaert said. He said that way the county could retain its surplus dollars for future use and still cover the cost of all the projects requested this year.
Doucette said the county could also benefit if the county lost revenue because of the pandemic.
“We’re again waiting on guidance for lost revenue,” she said. “It appears that our tax freezes in Wisconsin might turn to our benefit.”
She said the county is still waiting for the worksheets to determine potential pandemic-related losses, but if it turns out the county had lost $1 million in revenue for the year, that would broaden the scope on how the ARPA money could be spent.
Doucette said the only thing the county can’t do with ARPA funding is create a rainy-day fund; the money has to be spent on programs or projects.