The Greensboro City Council voted to dump the $59.4 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds into the city’s general fund at the Tuesday, Aug. 16 meeting.

The city had enough eligible expenses to cover using all of the ARP funds to make up for lost revenue and additional expenses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, so there was no need to go through the process of having projects approved separately.

When this was discussed at the Thursday, Aug. 11 work session, several councilmembers expressed concern that the ARP funds would get lost in the general fund and not be used for specific projects.

However, Assistant City Manager Larry Davis assured the City Council that the accounting for the ARP funds would be kept separately and the $59.4 million would be spent on City Council approved projects.

The concern of city councilmembers appeared to be as much about the perception of how the ARP money was being spent as it was about technical accounting, and according to the city’s press release that confusion has already begun.

On the City of Greensboro website on the “City News” page under the headline “City Council Recap” it states, “One of the last items was an ordinance amending the General Fund and the General Capital Improvements Fund for $6.1M for maintenance needs, including roof replacement and HVAC improvements at the Central Library, roof and various maintenance repairs at the Greensboro Cultural Center and repairs and improvements to the City’s swimming pools.”

Technically that report is accurate, however, the City Council agreed to pay for these routine maintenance expenses with ARP funds.  Since the ARP funds are now simply part of the general fund, spending the ARP funds on routine maintenance only requires amending the general fund budget and the general capital improvement fund budget.

District 3 City Councilmember Zack Matheny voted against spending the ARP funds on these items. Matheny did not participate in the Aug. 11 work session when the decision was made to spend ARP funds on routine maintenance because the work session was held a couple of hours before Matheny was sworn into office.

From reading the city report, Matheny’s objections make no sense because he objected to using ARP funds on maintenance items that should be paid for from the general fund, but technically the city was spending general fund money on routine maintenance, as Matheny said that it should, and the city report makes no mention of ARP funds.

It’s confusing and likely to get more confusing.