As Americans await stimulus checks from the federal government, some families may begin planning expensive vacations when they should really be thinking about putting a new roof on the house. Taking a step back and considering all the options is also what leaders of New York municipalities need to be doing.
In addition to direct aid to families, the $1.9 trillion federal COVID-19 relief package includes billions of dollars for state and local governments. In Cayuga County, that means Auburn will be receiving more than $22 million in aid, $14.85 million will be coming to the county government, and towns in county will be sharing about $5.5 million.
What to do with all those millions is the million-dollar question.
The pandemic has resulted in more than a year of job losses and related income shortfalls across the board. So the first thing governments need to do is assess their most urgent needs. They need to be precise in determining how much is needed to plug immediate budget gaps from lost sales and use tax revenues that are expected to bounce back as the economy rebounds.
These federal funds are not a recurring source of revenue — once they are spent, they are not going to be replenished. So using them to increase operational spending would set up governments to need big property tax increases or service cuts in the future.