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Rescue funds to speed up Mahoning County road work

YOUNGSTOWN — Mahoning County commissioners have moved $4,535,552 of American Rescue Plan funds to the county’s general fund to enable work to start on roads, bridges and other projects approved by voters Nov. 2.

County Administrator Audrey Tillis said this week that the ARP allows counties to use a formula to determine how much revenue they would have expected to receive in 2020 if there had not been a COVID-19 pandemic, and to place that money in their general fund.

That is what the county is doing with the $4.5 million, Tillis said.

With the $4.5 million going into the general fund, the county has allocated about $20 million of its $44 million ARP allocation from the federal government, Tillis said.

Of that, $1.5 million will be a “cash advance” from the commissioners to the fund that will receive the money from the quarter-percent sales tax increase for roads and bridges approved in the general election earlier this month.

Advancing the money will enable the county to begin work on road and bridge projects earlier, without having to wait for the sales-tax revenue to begin accumulating, Tillis said.

The sales tax increase will generate about $9 million annually to pave more roads and improve more bridges.

The measure passed after receiving 52.4 percent of the vote. It raises Mahoning County’s sales tax rate to 7.5 percent, one of the highest in the state. Of that amount, 5.75 percent goes to the state. The sales tax increase kicks in Jan. 1.

Of the $9 million, $4 million will go to county roads, $4 million to township roads and $1 million to county-owned infrastructure, primarily bridges, in cities and villages. The county isn’t permitted to pave roads in cities and villages, Mahoning County Engineer Pat Ginnetti said.

In addition to the $1.5 million for the roads and bridges fund, the commissioners also are putting $500,000 into a fund to offset reductions in real estate tax collections during COVID-19, Tillis said. The government put a moratorium on real estate foreclosures, Tillis noted.

Another $500,000 of the $4.5 million will be added to federal Community Development Block Grant funds used to help local governments, she said.

“The commissioners are still looking at ways to use those funds, but they are looking to make impact,” Tillis said of the $4.5 million. The commissioners needed to determine the dollar amount of ARP funds to move into the general fund and do it by the end of this year, Tillis said.

Allocations for the last $2 million of the $4.5 million will be coming out in the next few weeks, Tillis said, adding that it appears some of it will be used for technology and some to help the homeless.

The commissioners held budget hearings last week and expect to approve their general fund and justice fund budgets next week, Tillis said.

erunyan@vindy.com

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