WACO, Texas — The City of Waco has created a new online tool that allows residents to share how they think the city should use some of its American Rescue Plan Act funding.
The act, which passed in March, was designed to help provide COVID-19 relief to citizens and local governments and provides $34.7 million for the city. The first payment was received by the city in June, and the next payment is expected in June 2022.
The city's website shows that it already allocated $15 million for improvements to infrastructure. $2 million is on reserve for changing conditions brought on by the pandemic.
$17 million, however, is still on the table and the city wants feedback from the community about how it should be used. A new "Balancing Act" tool launched at the beginning of September allows people to simulate creating a budget based on the funding. That budget can then be submitted as a recommendation for the city's actual use of the funds.
"We're wanting to start really shifting as a city to make as many decisions as possible, that are still logistically feasible, to have a higher level of community input," said Kelly Palmer, District IV city council member.
From housing to job training to building improvements, people can share their ideal spending of the $17 million.
"Whether it be down payment assistance, new affordable housing, a variety of different topics or citizens can put in their own suggestions, and we'll look at those and consider those as well," said Nicholas Sarpy, director of the city's office of management and budget.
The city's budgeting office says if all goes well, similar tools could be used to for future city budgets.
As of Wednesday morning, nearly 200 people had submitted their Balancing Act tool to the city. The tool is available until the end of the month when the data will be compiled and used to decide the future of the funds.
Palmer hopes the new technology is just the beginning of a new way for the city government to operate.
"I think Waco is a community that a lot of other cities look to and other municipal governments look to and so this will have the positive impact of other communities moving in this direction of seeking community input," she said.
To learn more about the city's American Rescue Plan Act funding and to use the balancing tool, you can visit the City of Waco website. The tool is open until the end of September.