This week, the Eagle County Treasury Department announced the results of a public poll that will help determine how $10.7 million of coronavirus recovery funds should be spent. The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program is part of the American Rescue Plan Act, which is distributing $350 billion to local governments to help recover from the pandemic.
Eagle County will receive full funding by the end of this summer and must allocate funds by December 31, 2024 and spend by December 31, 2026.
The district is required to provide $708,000 for eligible causes as determined by federal guidelines, but $10 million is considered revenue replacement and can be used in any way the district sees fit, with some restrictions.
The public poll was conducted online from March 3rd to April 30th this year and received a total of 467 submissions. The Gyps, Edwards and Eagle zip codes had the most entries, and most of the participants were of working age. The two largest groups of respondents were between 25 and 44 years old and made up around 50% of the total pool.
In creating the survey, all county departments were asked to submit project ideas and price estimates, which were then compiled into a list of 19 options. Participants could select priorities that totaled $10.7 million or less and then rank them by preference.
The #1 priority that emerged from the survey was “New Early Childhood Care and Education Capacities”. This category received the most total votes and the highest weighted votes with 203, meaning it placed at the top of the list for most people.
Housing Partnerships, Increase in Construction Capacity for Habitat for Humanity, and Broadband were all in the top five for overall and weighted votes. According to the survey, these are the four projects that the majority of residents agree on as priorities.
The comparison of weighted and unweighted ranking also provides information about which projects have a high priority for a smaller group of people. While Water & Sewer Infrastructure for Dotsero Mobile Home Park ranks 7th in overall votes, it is 3rd on the weighted list with 142 votes, meaning those who voted for this project tend to put it at the top put on their list .
Cottonwood Pass Improvements received a similar response, ranking 10th in total votes with 127, but sixth in weighted votes.
On the other end of the spectrum, 156 people voted for “Grinder for Compost at Landfill,” but it was ranked 7th in weighted votes because it was lower on the list for most voters.
The “Your Proposal” category also made it into the weighted top 10, a category that includes a few dozen additional project ideas not originally on the voting list. “Mountain Tots” was written 23 times – underscoring the importance of early childhood care education to the community – and “Miller Ranch Lighting” was written 11 times.
In general, the same projects appeared in the top 10 of the weighted and unweighted categories, showing a clear preference for these projects over the bottom nine.
With this information, the finance team now returns to the departments that submitted the top 10 project ideas for formal proposals. The timeline for preparing these proposals will vary based on the complexity of the project, and the county’s chief financial officer, Jill Klosterman, said she expects an ongoing process for reviewing the proposals and allocating funds.
Klosterman also emphasized the fact that the district is not limited to spending $10.7 million on these high-priority projects and can use the funding to have a broader impact. The county also expects to receive more aid funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, which may later support other projects.
“We won’t be able to fund all of the top 10 projects with that $10.7 million, but as we get more information we may be able to find other sources to fund them from,” Klosterman said.
The public is invited to comment on the developed project proposals when they come before the district commissioners in late summer and autumn of this year. While the survey has been a useful tool in identifying priority actions that closely align with the Commissioners’ priorities, the process will continue to benefit from community input.
“As I do with all budget-related things, I always ask them to think not only about the project or program that’s in front of them, but also the overall financial picture, so that will surely be a part of any future consideration.” said Klosterman.