Plans for Rochester’s use of $17.4 million in federal funds are continuing to unfold.

Monday night, the Rochester City Council approved a set of recommendations that address key priorities.

The federal funds through the American Rescue Plan are being combined with approximately $5 million in retained revenue the city has due to pandemic cutbacks and changed practices, according to City Administrator Alison Zelms.

Federal recovery funds could buy down future Rochester tax increases

The plan divides the $22.4 million into five categories:

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  • $9.3 million for facility investment for fiscal sustainability

  • $7.4 million for revenue impact mitigation

  • Nearly $1.6 million for programs supporting residents

  • Nearly $1.8 million for programs aimed at reopening and resiliency

  • $2.35 million for supporting innovation

“I think the message for the community is that $16.7 million of this is going right back to projects that are the bottom line of government,” council member Nick Campion said of the funding dedicated to city facilities and addressing city revenue impacts, which will aim to reduce future property tax increases.

What happened: The Rochester City Council approved a plan for spending $17.4 million in American Rescue Plan funds, along with approximately in $5 million in retained earnings.

Why does this matter: The federal funds are intended to help the city recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

What's next: The city council will continue to approve spending of funds as details emerge.

The city has received half of the $17.4 million in federal funds, with the rest expected to be received next year. The funds must be spent by the end of 2024.

Zelms said specific spending plans are still being developed with facility improvements expected to start with required work on the Rochester Public Library roof and building. Approximately $2.5 million will be available for facility improvements in the first phase.

Another $800,000 would be available for energy conservation efforts.

The city would also have $7.4 million available to address past and future revenue reductions throughout the allowable period, Zelms said.

Plans for spending related to supporting residents and other recovery efforts continue to unfold.

The city council has committed $70,000 to opening city pools without admission fees and $636,000 to cover liquor license fees for bars and restaurants.

Another $125,000 is planned for spending on event safety, along with $500,000 on downtown reactivation.

“I know there are a bunch of plans out there,” Campion said, adding that the framework approved Monday provides a way to track the spending.

The city council will be required to approve any expenses of more than $50,000.

Zelms said more details will emerge as work on future city budgets continue.

“This was our attempt to bring you something as we plan for the 2022 budget and some of the impacts we anticipate relative to mitigating the amount of (property tax) levy needed,” she said.