London mayor questions CARES Act funding allocation

(Posted Aug. 24, 2020)

Andrew Garrett, Staff Writer

City of London officials are looking into a funding model that left the city with less than 10 percent of the money Madison County received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

On Aug. 20, council members discussed legislation that would appropriate $98,095.87 from CARES Act money into funds for the city to use. City officials were confused as to why the number was so low given the more than $1 million Madison County received as a whole.

“When I found out that London was only getting under $100,000 out of over $1 million, I looked into where the percentage shares came from,” said London Mayor Pat Closser. “I found out that the CARES Act funding was being distributed using the Local Government Funding percentages.”

The percentages not only apply to CARES Act money, but all funds that the county receives annually from the state or federal level.

Madison County received $1,066,259.41 in CARES funds. The money was divided between the county and its municipalities. The county received exactly 50 percent of funds. The city, villages and townships split the other 50 percent.

London received 9.2 percent of the funds, whereas the villages of Mount Sterling, Plain City and West Jefferson each received 7 percent of the funds.

“I then wanted to know who set up the Local Government Funding percentages and found out that the Madison County Budget Commission set these percentages up in 1981,” Closser told council.

He added that the commission at the time was made up of the county prosecutor, the county auditor and the county treasurer.

“I believe that these Local Government Funding percentages, set up almost 40 years ago, need to be looked at immediately,” Closser said. “These are unprecedented times, and there will be a huge economic impact on everyone.”

He said with London being almost 25 percent of the county’s population and only receiving 9.2 percent that the model is “outdated” and “unacceptable.”

During the new business portion of the meeting, council discussed the resolution that would allocate the $98,000 of CARES Act money for spending. The three readings rule was suspended and the measure passed in emergency.

In other action, council passed the ordinance rescinding the 0.5 percent tax credit for residents who live in the city of London but work outside it.

Council had discussed the measure in previous meetings, and a few residents had expressed opposition during the public comments portion of the meetings.

Council member Brenda Russell, who sponsored the legislation, said the move was necessary.

“This percentage funds the fire department but since the city took over the fire department and EMS services, we’ve saved citizens money,” Russell said. “Now we need to make sure they’re funded in the future so they will be successful.”

Aside from the absence of council member Carla Blazier, the measure passed unanimously.

Also at the Aug. 20 meeting, council:

  • passed a resolution to appropriate $279,000 for city hall improvements. The money would go toward facilities updates, such as a new sound system, stage curtains and carpeting.
  • passed a resolution repaying $50,000 in water department security deposits.
  • passed a resolution increasing the fire pension funds by $200,000.
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