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The City Council heard a long awaited update on finances for the first quarter of fiscal 2021 from Finance Director Aleesha Nunley-Benjamin at their meeting Tuesday, Nov. 10. The news was pretty good.
“The city is meeting target revenue estimates,” the report begins. “The city conservatively estimated a 10 percent cut to local aid. Fortunately, the governor committed to level fund. Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act funding couldn’t be used as a revenue offset. No federal stimulus at this point.”
Nunley-Benjamin described the situation as “very encouraging.”
“First quarter revenues are on target but the city is closely monitoring revenues throughout the pandemic,” she said. “We don’t know what the second quarter will look like. Let’s see how quarters two to four look. The city is prepared to assess revenue upon the new year and place a spending freeze if necessary.”
$2,615,606.30 was estimated for local receipts, but $2,662,642.70 came in. Cherry sheet state aid was initially $11,844,634 but is now $11,805,774, which will cover cherry sheet assessments, charges from the state for services, but Nunley-Benjamin said those numbers can change.
Enterprise Fund revenue, mainly related to water and sewer services, was estimated at $26,351,329 for fiscal 2021, with first quarter receipts at $5,616,207.82.
“We’re on target,” Nunley-Benjamin said.
Another source of funds is the return of $703,000 to Free Cash that was used to subsidize the fiscal 2021 General Fund budget due to the health pandemic and current economic conditions. That brought Free Cash up to $5,725,279.90.
“The money is rescinding back to Free Cash since new growth was higher than estimated,” Nunley-Benjamin said explained.
CARES funding runs through Dec. 30 from its May 14 start date, with the city charging 25 percent of its COVID -elated expenses to CARES and 75 percent to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but those numbers might also change.
“FEMA takes a long time to tell us what’s accepted,” Nunley-Benjamin explained. “If we charge to FEMA and they deny, I have to find a place for a percentage. The city is waiting from FEMA what expenses were ineligible and must be 100 percent CARES. We haven’t heard back.”
Citizens across the country received stimulus checks to assist them during the COVID pandemic, but municipalities did not received a stimulus. Instead, cities and towns were awarded funds that must be expended on COVID-eligible expenses. The CARES Act funding is set to expire Dec. 30, even though COVID numbers are spiking.
“Since the Governor level funded local aid the city was able to reprogram funds back to the schools and city to stabilize operations,” Nunley-Benhamin said.
Nunley-Benjamin’s presentation indicated Medford was awarded $5,093,008 in CARES aid. For fiscal 2020, the city encumbered or committed $65,756.22 in the form of purchase orders and spent $132,155.03, with 25 percent of that being COVID-related, FEMA-eligible expenses.
For fiscal 2021 so far, the city encumbered or committed $1,507,939.05 in the form of purchase orders and spent $496,271.89.
“The city and schools will be using the remaining $2.5-2.9 million for heat ventilation air conditioning and personal protective equipment, additional personnel and other expenses until Dec. 30,” the presentation reads.
In fiscal 2020, the city received $47,384.03 from FEMA, but $288,388.26 was spent eligible items. In fiscal 2021, so far, the city has received $102, 493.55 from FEMA, and $74,400.97 was spent.
“It’s encouraging to hear what we’re hearing,” Knight said. “We’re seeing an increase in state aid.”
He’s brought up the need for quarterly updates before, including a proposal Sept. 22.
“This is something we’ve kicked around for some time,” he said.
“These types of presentations are important and not done enough,” Councilor Michael Marks added.