RS Mayor: American Rescue Plan Funds Will Help, but Not City’s ‘Saving Grace’

RS Mayor: American Rescue Plan Funds Will Help, but Not City’s ‘Saving Grace’

City of Rock Springs Website photo of Mayor Tim Kaumo

ROCK SPRINGS — After hearing news that the city of Rock Springs will be receiving about $3.5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), SweetwaterNOW reached out to Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo to see what this means for the city.

Kaumo said the city can use the unrestricted ARPA funds for any purpose necessary to make up for losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He said local governments can also use the ARPA funds to assist nonprofits, businesses and organizations for eligible expenses. According to Kaumo, the funds can also go to support water, sewer, and broadband projects related to COVID-19 shortfalls.

“These funds will definitely help get us through this year and hopefully a portion of next if we continue to be fiscally responsible,” Mayor Kaumo said. “These are one-time monies so we don’t want to create or spend these dollars in a fashion that would become a situation that would require on-going funding because it simply isn’t there.”

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Even though the city will be receiving these funds, it is still considering 20-30 percent cuts from each department and outside agencies that receive funds from the city.

Kaumo said they must keep in mind that the city will receive these funds in two payments. The first will arrive 60 days after March 11, which is when the ARPA funds were enacted. The second payment will come about 12 months after the first payment is received.

“This being said, it will be extremely important that we utilize these dollars wisely in order to provide some breathing room over the next fiscal year,” Kaumo said.

While the Rock Springs City Council may consider lessening cuts due to this funding, it would most likely be in areas already being considered for cuts, such as part time and seasonal employees, Kaumo said.

I do not think this will be the saving grace for the city’s budget this year.

~ Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo

The city had to cut a little more than $7 million last year to balance the budget. Most of those cuts were in the capital projects fund, which is something the city was saving for years to complete, Kaumo said. The city also used money from its reserves to help come up with the deficit, however, the city is obligated to keep at least three months for operating in its reserves.

“We have had to halt the replacement of aging equipment and vehicles, which becomes costly by having to repair and maintain failing equipment,” Kaumo said.

The city has continued to see a 20 percent decrease in sale taxes, which is its main revenue source. He said Wyoming’s big industries including oil and gas, trona, coal, and renewables need to rebound.

“If industry is doing well, the state will do better and if the state does better, our municipalities and counties will do better,” Kaumo said.

However, Kaumo knows it’s also important to look at other alternatives for money.

“We need to continue to work on diversification of our economy and promote new businesses as well as support what we have.”