Almost $16 million in certified free cash thanks to ARPA cash investments

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FALL RIVER — The millions the city received from the American Rescue Plan Act funding has afforded Fall River many infrastructure- and community-based projects it normally would not have been able to afford.

It also has another benefit with an infusion of surplus money from the 2024 budget through interest earned on the one-time infusion of cash.

Recently the city certified approximately $15.9 million in free cash, an amount far exceeding the numbers in previous years, which typically will be around the $3 million mark.

In March, during his State of the City address, Mayor Paul Coogan said the city’s “rainy day fund” has grown from $10 million when he took office in 2020 to $26 million today.

The topic of the city’s certified free cash was discussed during last week’s City Council meeting. The Council later approved moving the balance of the $15.9 million — which was $6.4 million — to the city’s stabilization account before a June 30 deadline, the last day of fiscal year 2024.

Invested ARPA funds boosted the city’s rainy day fund in last fiscal year.

6 stats to know: Mayor Coogan says Fall River’s recovery ‘happening before our very eyes’

“In your experience is that high to have almost $16 million in free cash?” asked City Councilor Cliff Ponte.

Chief Financial Officer Bridget Almon said the number was not typical of free cash in previous years.

“But it’s typical of what’s been going on in Massachusetts currently,” Almon said. “There were many communities that had significantly high free cash certifications this year.”

Almon said the main reason was the administration invested the ARPA money and received significant returns on those investments.

“We also had some turn backs on the expense side due to a lot of vacancies that weren’t filled,” Almon said.

Like ARPA, high free cash dollar amounts won’t last forever

City Council President Joseph Camara asked Almon if, going into the new budget, the city would invest in a similar way with those high returns due to recent high interest rates.

“Or was that just something that the ARPA money allowed us to do?” asked Camara.

Trolley and public safety upgrades: Fall River’s ARPA funding continues to be expended with more projects

The ARPA money, Almon said, allowed the city to put a large amount of cash into investments “to work for the city.”

“As the ARPA money is being spent, we are monitoring those cash flows and we do expect those to fall off. But we are monitoring the cash flows on projects so we’re not expending out the city’s money so we can continue to make the money work,” Almon said. “The plan is to keep growing the stabilization account so that we can invest in buying police cars and doing those capital purchases.”

The city, Almon said, is trying to “move away from borrowing for those kinds of things.”

Camara gave kudos to the administration for making the ARPA money investments.

“Invest the money when the interest rates are high and take advantage of the ARPA money that wasn’t being used,” Camara said.

ARPA funding: Millions in ARPA money spent in Fall River, millions more to go

Almon said there is still about $30 million in ARPA money still invested.

The city of Fall River received $69.9 million in ARPA funds and another $16 million in an allocation from Bristol County.

The administration has until the end of 2024 to allocate the funds and by the end of 2026 to expend the money on the dozens of ARPA funded projects.

This article originally appeared on The Herald News: ARPA funding investments give a boost to the city’s ‘rainy day’ fund