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Why Ripon is using stimulus money

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POSTED March 25, 2010 2:14 a.m.
I am sure most Ripon residents are aware the country is in the depths of a recession. Unfortunately, we are not immune from the effects of this very difficult economic time magnified by the poor decisions made by our leaders in Sacramento.

I know you are concerned about our City’s budget deficit by your comments at the council meetings and around town. Additionally, I recognize some of you are worried about whether we can continue to provide the level of services you expect. Obviously, you do not want the city to intensify our financial problem by misspending any of your tax money.

Recently, I have heard many residents question why the City is initiating construction projects and improvements during this economic downturn.  I hope that this information will address those questions.On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  ARRA provides funding for various areas, including transportation.  The purpose of these transportation funds was to repair and improve the transportation system, create jobs and stimulate economic growth.  

As I am sure you are aware, there were some concerns by fiscally conservative elected officials that some of the strings attached were not worth accepting the funds. For example, a few governors had the foresight to turn down their share of the $7 billion for unemployment insurance, realizing that once the federal funds run out, benefits would be unpayable. In addition, there were some strings attached to some grant funding and the competitive application process was very complicated and time consuming for staff.

In spite of these challenges, Ripon was successful in obtaining ARRA funding for four different transportation projects. These included the Wilma Avenue and Second Street Roundabout Improvements, North Ripon Asphalt Rehabilitation Project, Main Street, Phase 2 Improvements and finally the construction of a turn-around east of Nourse Street and a parking lot where the car wash is currently located.

The following is a summary of the costs and funds used for these improvements:

Construction Costs: $2,974,099
ARRA Funds: $1,502,131
Redevelopment Agency: $800,000
Water Fund: $134,211
Traffic Signalization Fund: $187,757
Street and Road Fund: $350,000

As you can see, none of the money spent on these or any other upcoming construction projects is from the general fund, which is the part of the budget that is experiencing a deficit. General fund money primarily comes from sales tax revenue and for the most part pays for the Police Department, parks, landscaping, library, senior center and recreation. More importantly, none of the money expended from the ARRA grants or the various enterprise funds could be used to reduce our general fund deficit. Therefore, it has no connection to recent council decisions to reduce expenditures and lay off 13 employees.

Another benefit to starting construction now is that the bidding environment is such that the City has been receiving the lowest bids we have seen in the last five years. This allows us to maximize the grant funding we have obtained and provide the maximum benefit to you at the lowest overall cost.

Furthermore, the City has put an emphasis on providing improvements that have the lowest maintenance impacts to the Public Works Department.  For instance, the Wilma Roundabout will be constructed with synthetic turf that does not require mowing or watering.  

A few residents have told me we should have rejected the ARRA funds. Regrettably, if we had not accepted these funds, they would have gone to another city for completion of their projects. Instead, we increased our project funding by over $1.5 million that indirectly came from you, the taxpayer. That is where the federal government ultimately gets all its money.

I appreciate many of the concerns that have been expressed and hope this provides a clarification as to why we are moving forward with these projects at this time. As always, the City Council and staff are doing everything we can to make it through this economic crisis. This is just another example of the excellent work our employees do on a daily basis to make our City a better place to live.
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