Comptroller Mike Lowe

The City of Franklin intends to apportion water and sewer infrastructure among its American Rescue Plan Act allocations as it agrees to raise its level of compensation to Mallory Valley Utility District.

Since U.S. Congress passed the $350 billion American Rescue Plan Act on March 11, 2021, Franklin has received half of the $9.2 million it was allocated from the law’s $65.1 billion municipal recovery dollars.

The second half is expected from the U.S. Treasury in May 2022, a year after the first, and the city’s Budget and Finance Committee has determined that the fiscal 2022 budget would best utilize the funds for water and sewer infrastructure in addition to premium pay, street aid services and hotel and motel services. Premium pay accounts for up to $1,000 net pay to eligible city employees.

Only one of these distributions has been realized so far for the first half of ARPA funding while the rest has only been budgeted for future use.

“Of the $4.6 million we’ve received, we’ve only spent so far $660,000 toward the premium pay, […] but there are some amounts the board has budgeted for the plan for the funds,” according to City Comptroller Mike Lowe. “There is $50,000 that’s been budgeted to go to the street aid fund. There is over a million dollars budgeted to go to the hotel-motel tax fund as well as a million dollars to go to the water and sewer fund. So, those monies have been budgeted, but they haven’t actually been spent as of this point.”

One example of revenue loss for qualifying ARPA allocations is what necessitated Franklin’s latest amendment to its 2008 service termination agreement with Mallory Valley Utility District, which will yield a higher monthly compensation for the city to pay the district. The city has previously budgeted for a $1,000 expenditure each month and is now budgeting for a $1,350 monthly expenditure to start in July 2022, which makes for $4,200 additional expense annually for a new total of $16,200.

The city will also pay a fee of $30 for every customer it directs MVUD to disconnect due to nonpayment, which the city will ideally collect from the customers themselves; however, disconnection fees commonly remain as unpaid balances for extended periods, so part of that total may roll over into the next fiscal budget.

As of last month, over 3,600 MVUD customers get sanitary sewer services from the city, most of them being in the Cool Springs area. As such, the utility district provides Franklin city staff with monthly water meter usage data for that cross-section of customers whom they and the city both serve in order to calculate how much the city should bill them since these customers receive two separate bills from the city and from Mallory Valley.

“Now, there’s the infrastructure bill that’s coming on behind [ARPA], so we’re trying to do the best we can in reading the crystal ball on all this about where to best put dollars that we see coming from the federal government,” said Eric Stuckey, city administration. “We’ve moved forward with some elements; there are some other things that are still coming through.”

Franklin is the only Williamson County city — one of only 18 such cities statewide — to receive its allocation directly from the federal government.