Sources of Funding
While resources could come from the general fund and a variety of other funds, two sources fit mental health services, COVID relief, and public safety particularly well.
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA): ARPA is a federal program to offset the negative effects of COVID on people’s health and well-being, to offset the effects of COVID on the economy, and to accomplish other objectives as well. The City of Ann Arbor has received $24 million that must be appropriated no later than December 31, 2024 and spent no later than December 31, 2026. We will use the time span of 2023 through 2026 throughout this paper.
The County Mental Health & Public Safety Millage: Most people who voted for the Millage believed they were voting to support improved mental health and public safety services. Furthermore, most wanted the revenues to be used for these purposes. The City of Ann Arbor will have revenues from the Millage, including the ending fund balance from FY 2022, in FYs 2023 - 2026 of about $12 million.
Two other sources of funds are promising.
Ann Arbor Police Department (AAPD): As unarmed service providers assume a larger role in responses to distress and crisis, the need for armed AAPD Officers will decline. This analysis assumes AAPD contracts through attrition at a rate of about five positions per year beginning in FY 2023. Total FTEs in the Police Department in FY 2022 are 149 so a decline of five per year translates to a modest 3.4 percent per year. We also assume savings of about $100,000 per FTE so total savings are $0.5 million in FY 2023, $1.0 million in FY 2023, and so on. Total savings in FYs 2023 - 2026 would be $6 million.
External Grants: The State of Michigan, Federal Government, and foundations want to facilitate improved mental health services and greater use of unarmed service providers in responding to people in distress or in crisis. The City is likely to acquire external support for one or more of the programs described in this paper. This outcome is especially likely if the City Council approves the City Administrator’s request for a grant writer.
Summarizing, there is no good reason to inadequately fund excellent mental health services and the unarmed response program. Mental health services and public safety are both high priorities. These programs warrant support relative to lower priority services in the City’s budget. This would be true in any period. Having recognized this, allocating the needed funds in the FY 2023 Budget will be easier than in many years. We have identified funding sources totaling to a minimum of $42 million that match very well the programs recommended for funding in this paper. ARPA was passed to enable local governments to maintain and even improve services despite the pandemic. The Millage was supported by voters because they desired improved mental health and public safety services. State and Federal governments recognize the importance of improved public safety and are allocating grant funds for this purpose. City officials, both elected and administrative, should cease this moment, focus on making good programmatic decisions, and then appropriate the funds needed for implementation.
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