Fiscal Year Budget, ARPA Allocations – Hagerstown Work Session Recap

Fiscal Year Budget, ARPA Allocations – Hagerstown Work Session Recap

HAGERSTOWN – Tuesday’s work session, 12 December 2023, began with a review of the city’s finances and accounting for the 2023 fiscal year. Christopher Lehman, engagement partner with SB & Company, LLC, reported an unmodified opinion on financial statements. No instances of fraud or material weaknesses were discovered, and full cooperation was received from management. Net position for both governmental and business activities increased from the previous fiscal year.

The City of Hagerstown ended the fiscal year with a 3.3 million dollar surplus and an unassigned fund balance of 18.4 million. Multiple allocations for this fund were proposed, the most prominent being 1.7 million dollars dedicated to the implementation of new citywide software. This is viewed as critical, since the current software is about thirteen years old. Another notable proposed allocation came in the form of a $500,000 transfer to support the continued construction of the Hagerstown Field House, which received a groundbreaking ceremony earlier today.

Several amendments to the Hagerstown City Code were proposed regarding the restrictions on billboard positioning and size parameters as stated by Chapter 204 of the code. These amendments include prohibiting billboards in both mixed-use and institutional districts, allowing digital and triangular billboards, and introducing new square footage for wall-mounted billboards. Suggested changes will likely be implemented in the coming year.

Various programs were recommended for the Program Open Space Annual Grant overseen by the Department of Natural Resources. One such program was the aforementioned Field House, which would use the money for recreation/sport-related equipment such as bleachers and wall dividers. Grant funding was also recommended to develop a city park parking lot, renovate the mansion house, and resurface the tennis courts.

Three additional organizations were considered for nonprofit funding via the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The Mental Health Center’s application proved the most promising. They requested $36,366 to support their Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program (PRP). Funds will go toward offering coverage for children with private insurance and providing a parent education group to families experiencing mental health issues due to Covid-19.

The Restaurant Ready Grant, funded by ARPA, is intended to bolster food-and-drink restaurant openings following Covid-19. Five applications have recently been recommended for a total utilization of just over $234,574. Recipient agreements with these five applicants will soon be finalized.

The new ENVY initiative basketball league has experienced huge success thus far according to Chief of Police Paul Kifer, who provided a comprehensive plan on the utilization of ARPA’s funding. $6,000 will be used for uniforms, scoreboards, basketballs, and other basic expenditures. However, the biggest portion of funds ($12-13,000) will be used to provide kids with transportation to and from games. Kifer concluded with a call for referees, urging anyone interested to contact him. Training will be provided.

The police department is attempting to provide all sworn officers with take-home cars. However, at least 41 positions are currently going without that benefit. Kifer proposed that these officers receive a fuel allowance in the meantime, which, he said, would make up for the wear and tear they put on their own vehicles in their tireless service to the community.

The session concluded with closing comments from the mayor, council members, and city administrator, primarily centering around excitement for the developing Field House.