Analysis: How Ridgefield has spent its American Rescue Plan funds and how much it has left

RIDGEFIELD — The town has largely used its American Rescue Plan monies toward COVID-19 related expenses, lost revenue and an infrastructure project, an analysis found.

During a Board of Finance meeting this month, finance director Kevin Redmond shared an analysis showing how much of the federal stimulus was initially delivered, how much has been allocated since, and what the remaining balance will be assuming the second tranche is received.

His report comes as the the town expects to receive its second tranche of these grants in the spring.

Ridgefield’s first tranche of ARPA funds, which it received last June, amounted to approximately $3.7 million. The total stimulus amounts to roughly $7.4 million.

Redmond’s analysis included a series of deductions to demonstrate where some of the money from the first tranche has been allocated already.

Last summer, the Board of Finance codified a provision in the budget for fiscal year 2022 that reduced the tax rate from 1.7 percent to 0.3 percent. The reduction was made possible through the use of the ARPA monies.

About $1.5 million was allocated to replace revenue that Ridgefield missed out on due to the pandemic. With the offset, residents will only see a 0.3 percent increase on their taxes.

At a town meeting last fall, voters approved to allocate $2.9 million of the first tranche toward the Route 7 sewer project. The money will partially fund the construction of a new force-main sewer line connecting the District II plant on Route 7 to the upgraded District I plant on South Street.

Prior to that meeting, Ridgefield’s Water Pollution Control Authority voted to ensure that any grant money or rebates related to the project would be used to defray its overall cost, meaning the town would use less of the federal dollars.

Redmond factored in the likely sale of a related property, amounting to $440,000, into his analysis. Once the new sewer line is up and running, the town intends to demolish the District II plant.

“We’re looking at the possibility of a sale of that property,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said, “(and) the revenue from that would go back into the ARPA account.”

With the Board of Selectmen’s approval, the town recently purchased more than 17,000 rapid COVID-19 test kits from Florida to distribute to residents through various outlets. The Board of Finance subsequently voted to approve the use of $344,480 from the first ARPA tranche to pay for the kits.

Residents will get their say on the purchase during a town meeting at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Marconi said voters will also be able to ask any questions related to the overall use of the ARPA funding during this time.

“In order to provide a complete picture to the public and to the federal treasury in the event that we are audited … we have optimized the transparency, public notification and opportunity for input,” he added.

Redmond expects the town to receive its second tranche of ARPA funds — a similar amount as the first — before the end of this fiscal year, in either April, May or June. The town has about $3 million left to spend, he said.

An informal working group was established to determine how to use the remaining funds based on guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department. As with normal budgetary proceedings, the expenditures would have to be approved via public hearings, town meetings or a natural referendum.

The group comprises representatives from Ridgefield’s Tri-Board, including: Marconi and Selectman Bob Hebert; Kenneth Sjoberg and Tina Malhotra from the Board of Education; and Mike Rettger and Greg Kabasakalian from the Board of Finance. Economic & Community Development Commissioner Geoffery Morris was invited to join as a seventh member.

The group is expected to hold an organizational meeting in the coming weeks to figure out what other requests should be pursued.