The Cortland County Legislature created an advisory committee Thursday night of the chairs of all its standing committees to suggest ways the county can spend $9 million in federal money from the American Rescue Plan.
The $1.9 trillion federal plan was adopted in March.
The federal government said the money can be used for, but are not limited to, costs associated with responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, to support essential workers, to cover revenue losses caused by the pandemic, on investments in water, sewer or broadband, assistance to small businesses and nonprofits, or aid to affected people.
At the county Legislature’s Finance and Administration Committee meeting on June 15, legislators debated who gets to make those decisions. Thursday, legislators voted, 12-5, to create the ad hoc committee, which would include County Administrator Rob Corpora.
Because the committee, which sits until the end of the year, is advisory, Corpora can play a role as administrator and county budget officer, said Savannah Hemsptead, deputy clerk of the Legislature.
Legislators who opposed the motion included Richard Stock (DCortland), Ann Homer (D-Cortland), Kelly Preston (U-Homer), Linda Jones (U-Homer) and Joe Nauseef (U-Cortlandville).
Preston asked why the Finance and Administration Committee couldn’t make the decision itself.
“It just seems to add on another layer to this allocation process — instead of just having budget and finance make the decision,” Preston said. “Are they now going to propose to the finance administration committee? It really just seems like it adds on another layer.”
Heider said the committee is made up of committee chairs so more than just the Finance Committee is involved. The frequency of the advisory committee’s meetings are yet to be determined.
The Highway Committee proposed the county use $300,000 for road rehabilitation projects that were postponed due to the COVID-19 shutdown. The Finance Committee proposed using up to $75,000 for bonuses to county employees who couldn’t use comp time.
“They’ll be bringing forward some ideas of how we’re going to utilize that funding to benefit all of our residents in Cortland County,” said Democratic Conference Leader Beau Harbin (D-Cortland). “It’s an important source of funding that we really need to look at, so we’re getting that community together and moving that forward.”