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West Chester Twp. plans to use bulk of CARES Act funds for safety staff

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Posted at 10:54 AM, Oct 31, 2020

WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio — West Chester Twp. has just over $4 million in coronavirus relief funds available, and the trustees are expected to approve using the bulk of the money for safety services payroll costs incurred this year on dealing with the pandemic, according to the Journal-News.

Finance Director Ken Keim told the trustees Tuesday the township has received around $3.9 million in federal CARES Act funding and some smaller grants. The township has spent or will spend $144,083 on personal protective equipment (PPE), disinfecting township buildings and other expenses related to stopping spread of the virus. Keim is recommending the trustees allocate the rest to eligible salaries.

“The most recent guidance from the Ohio Management and Budget Office indicates CARES Act funds can be allocated to cover employee expenses who were substantially dedicated, more than 50% of their effort to COVID-19 responses,” Keim said. “And, public safety personnel, police, fire, ESM and dispatchers are all assumed to be substantially dedicated."

Keim will bring a resolution authorizing the allocation before the trustees at their next meeting. All three trustees told the Journal-News they approve of the recommendation.

“Public safety is the area that was really hit hard during the pandemic,” Trustee Lee Wong said. “This is just a temporary – it gives us relief, for the taxpayers also. This is not a part of the levy or anything. It helps us. There was a lot of overtime use that put a big dent in our budget."

Township residents will be asked to approve new 2-mill levies each for police and fire next week that will generate about $10 million total. Trustee Ann Becker said the CARES money allotment, which will cover seven safety service salaries from April 10 to July 3, has no bearing on the township’s need to pass the new levies.

“This CARES money is going toward the 14 weeks when our first responders were most at risk and the most susceptible to infection from COVID, ” Becker said. “It’s a Band-Aid for our safety services, but it won’t impact our need for the levies.”

Keim also noted that Butler County jurisdictions must return any unallocated CARES money to the county auditor Nov. 20, for redistribution to communities that still have needs. He said if the township receives more money he will recommend safety salary reimbursement. Keim noted the boost might help the new levies last a little longer than projected.

The Butler County commissioners have said they have received criticism from some for accepting their $18.7 million allotment. Trustee Mark Welch said it is the township’s responsibility to its taxpayers to take all the help they can get.

“It is my fiduciary responsibility to the residents and businesses of West Chester to use every resource to help keep our taxes low and to ensure the safety and well-being of everybody. This money will help to do that,” Welch said. “Even though I’m largely in disagreement with how we’re printing money and spending it, the fact that it’s available, I think it is incumbent upon the trustees to take it.”