Lancaster City Hall 2018

Lancaster City Hall

When: Lancaster City Council meeting, Nov. 9.

What happened: Mayor Danene Sorace briefed City Council on the results of a seven-week community engagement effort designed to help guide how the city’s $39.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds will be allocated.

Why it matters: Council has already earmarked $5 million of the funds for affordable housing. American Rescue Plan Act funds are required to be obligated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.

Survey respondents: Results included feedback from 599 participants — 356 who weighed in online and 243 who participated at in-person survey spots like Penn Square and a McCaskey football game. Participants were given a list of 22 priorities and could vote for a few choices of where they thought the funds should be focused.

Results: Of the 2,654 votes cast, the five priorities receiving the most were: affordable housing with 327; behavioral health with 319; homelessness support with 295; addressing educational disparities with 190; and critical home repair with 167. “This was a first pass at community engagement, and we’re looking forward to continuing conversation,” Sorace said.

Outside the wheelhouse: Sorace noted that half of the top 10 priorities aren’t entirely in the city’s lane but were included as options so as not to narrow discussion prematurely. She said two other entities are integral to this success are Lancaster County, which received $106 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds, and the School District of Lancaster, which received $42 million.

Not included: Revenue replacement and infrastructure are American Rescue Plan Act-allowed options but were not listed among the survey choices because the administration already deems those essential, Sorace said. Council will hear more about revenue replacement intentions in December and more about infrastructure next year. “It’s especially important to relate that (infrastructure) and the decisions that we make related to ARPA to the recently-passed and much, much welcomed Infrastructure Investment Jobs Act legislation,” Sorace said.

What’s next: Council will vote Nov. 23 on a proposed memorandum of understanding ordinance related to the Little Conestoga Creek Blue/Green Corridor Project. A 2022 budget hearing is planned for Dec. 11 in Council Chambers with time details to follow. That’s a Saturday.

Quotable: “If you’ve never been to the city budget hearing, it is like a five- to six-hour rip-roaring good time. We’ve got electronic music. We’ve got jungle juice. There’s a snack bar. There’s actually none of those things. But you will get to watch (city business administrator) Patrick Hopkins talk for five hours,” said council President Ismail Smith-Wade-El. “Seriously, really, this is when you will get to see each department of the city of Lancaster break down what their plans are for your tax and fee dollars over the next calendar year … So we invite you.”

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