Tracking the stimulus

I wrote early today about the difficulty anyone is going to have keeping track of where all of the stimulus money is going, despite the stated best intentions of many of those involved.

So this afternoon, I’ve been calling around the state, asking communities how they intend to spend the $29 million coming into the state from the Justice Assistance Grants announced by President Obama last week as part of his stimulus package.

This is “small potato” money in the big scheme of things, but the exercise has revealed how stimulus money gets absorbed into budgets at the lowest levels of government and is probably going to take someone with enough time and resources to call and e-mail every city in the state literally hundreds of times to be able to determine how it’s spent.

Some cities and counties know how they’ll spend it already. Some don’t know how the’ll spend it, and some don’t even know they’ve got it. Most are scrambling to figure out what strings — if any — are attached. In many cases, the communities just found out today that it’s available to them. Only a small handful of the more than 50 communities I contacted responded.

Here’s a sample of how some of it is going to be spent in Minnesota.

Dakota County – $11,168

According to Chief Deputy Sheriff Dave Bellows, they’re trying to determine if it can be used for equipment. The county has recently been upgrading camera systems in squad cars.

Woodbury – $21,804

“Woodbury is a first-time recipient of this funding. As a result, we need a little time to review the specifics of the program and determine what types of expenditures are eligible,” city communications director Julie Lahr said in an e-mail. “Once we do that, the public safety director will make a recommendation to the city administrator regarding what he believes would be the best use of the grant money.”

Rosemount – $10,104

The Byrne grants have been used for joint ventures with other government agencies in such things as investigations of gangs and drugs, asscording to Jeff May, the city’s finance director. He says he’s not sure, however, whether this is “new” money that will allow additional programs or whether it’s “old money under a new name.”

Apple Valley – $46,001

“Our police chief, Scott Johnson, is currently evaluating a number of different options for these funds. Given the one-time nature of the funding, it is most likely these funds will be used to purchase capital equipment items,” Apple Valley’s city administrator Tom Lawell said.

Inver Grove Heights – $34,301

“The money you refer to would come to Dakota County and not directly to the City of Inver Grove Heights. In that case, I have not heard from the County on any of their plans for receipt of that funding,” responded Joe Lynch, the city administrator.

Brooklyn Park – $245,693

Our police chief is busy working on figuring out what the eligible expenditures would be for so I can’t tell you specifically what we’ll use it for,” city manager Jamie Verbrugge said.

South St. Paul – $19,411

“We have not made decisions about where it would be used. The Governor’s initial 2009 budget proposal would reduce our Local Government aid – an integral part of our revenues – by about $400,000 in 2009 and another $1 million in 2010. If that becomes reality, there will be lots of uses for the $19,411,” wrote Stephen King, the city administrator.

My favorite response, however, came from Tammy Omdal, the chief financial officer of Burnsville, which is receiving $75,250. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said.

Incidentally, Kerri Miller will have the two mayors in the house on Midmorning on Tuesday (9 a.m.) to talk about the stimulus money.

  • Mad as Hell

    I can tell you where some the stimulus money is going. I just heard that GMAC’s Residential Funding Corp handed out a bunch of bonuses recently. I guess they have plenty o’ cash after reclassifying themselves as a bank and getting a boatload of taxpayer cash.

    Not long ago these same employees were fearing for their jobs — now they get bonuses?