Granite Quarry approves using ARPA funds to reimburse salaries

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, June 15, 2022

By Elisabeth Strillacci

GRANITE QUARRY — The Board of Aldermen on Monday night approved the use of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for reimbursement of a portion of town salaries.

The money will come from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recording Funds, which requires the town to use the funds for specific projects. The town adopted an ordinance that will use one of those specifications to permit the town a one-time reimbursement of five different salary categories.

That specification allows “replacing lost public sector revenue, using this funding to provide government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue experienced due to the pandemic.”

The town has already received about half of its anticipated funding, or $479,958, and expects to receive the balance within 12 months. The total estimated allocation for Granite Quarry is $959,917.

The town will use the money to pay the salaries for fire department, law enforcement, administrative, public works and governing body services from the period of March 3, 2021, through March 31, 2022.

The ordinance requires the town’s finance officer to provide detailed accounting records of payroll to satisfy the grant requirements, and the money received from the grant will be kept separate from the General Fund.

Using the grant funds to reimburse the town for salaries over the past year will free up money in the town’s general fund, said Finance Officer Shelly Shockley. The board has discussed using that money for other projects, but to date, no decisions have been made. Shockley did confirm that any use of general fund money that comes from reimbursement would be short term, to avoid having to pay for both salaries and projects in the future.

The board also addressed rising fees for a number of town services, including waste management collection and public works, because of rising fuel costs. The board discussed raising the environmental fee to help offset rising costs, but no changes were made.

“I don’t think raising the environmental fee is appropriate at this time,” said Alderman Doug Shelton. “If we’re looking at rampant inflation, I don’t know where the bouncing ball is going to go.”

A public hearing on the proposed budget was opened, but no one in the community spoke. Town Manager Larry Smith has presented a budget recommendation of $2.95 million, which would mean an increase from the current tax rate of 41.75 cents per $100 of valuation to a rate of 44.75 cents per $100 of valuation. That means for owners who have a property valued at $100,000 the an annual tax increase would be $300.

No motion was made to approve the proposed budget as several board members still had questions about how to address the rising cost of living across the board, something Smith noted “every single town around us is also dealing with right now.”

“Right up front, I think there is enough left to talk about that we need at least one more meeting,” said board member John Linker. The board continued the meeting until Thursday, June 16, at 9:30 a.m. The budget must be approved by June 30, the last day of the fiscal year, so a new budget is in place when the new fiscal year starts July 1.