Multiple Collin County cities will be getting additional coronavirus relief after the county agreed to use CARES Act funds to support city expenditures for public safety employees.
On Dec. 14, the Collin County Commissioners Court voted to funnel $28.6 million to cities for public safety expenditures. According to a court order for the disbursement, CARES Act funding can only be used for the cost of public safety employees including firefighters, police officers, emergency medical responders and detention officers.
The funding, allocated to cities based on their population within Collin County, covers costs of public safety employees between March 1 and Dec. 30.
According to Dec. 15 numbers provided by the city of Frisco, Plano received the biggest chunk of distribution from the allotment at $9.7 million, followed by McKinney, which is slated to get $6.1 million.
Allen, Celina and Prosper are among the other cities slated to receive funding for the public safety initiative. Any funds that cities don’t use by Dec. 30 must be returned to the county within 30 days, the interlocal agreement states.
The McKinney City Council approved the agreement during its regular Dec. 15 meeting. The Frisco and Plano city councils approved their respective agreements with the county during special meetings on Dec 17.
“We just want to thank our leaders at the county for allocating these funds,” Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney said Thursday. “They are very timely for our budget purposes.”
Before the Commissioners Court approved the allotment for public safety use, commissioners considered a request from multiple Collin County school districts that had written a combined letter asking that unused county CARES Act funds go to school districts to cover eligible COVID-19 costs incurred as businesses.
The letter, signed by superintendents from independent school districts in Allen, Celina, Frisco, Lovejoy, McKinney, Plano and Prosper, cited a total of $11.1 million in COVID-19 expenses as of Dec. 9 that they said had not been reimbursed.
“These K-12 school systems, the school districts you represent, have rapidly redesigned the education system to include quality remote instruction and put health and safety protocols in place at great expense to the local districts,” the letter states. “Our districts have requested reimbursement for all eligible COVID-related expenses allowed by TDEM or FEMA; however, as you see below, the reimbursements granted leave millions of dollars spent by local districts with no relief in sight.”
Plano ISD cited $3.3 million in COVID-19 expenses as of Dec. 9 that was not covered by other relief funds. Allen ISD cited $2.3 million and Frisco ISD logged $1.8 million.
The Commissioners Court discussed the possibility of allotting some money that it had left in CARES Act funding to schools but ultimately decided against the idea. Commissioners cited concerns about a short timing window and concerns about the fairness of disbursing funds to public schools versus charter or private schools.
During the Dec. 14 Frisco ISD Board of Trustees meeting, Superintendent Mike Waldrip announced that the county had been unable to provide CARES Act funding to school districts. He thanked the county for considering the proposal.
“There may be some other options show up for us this spring, hopefully there will be, for us to help recoup some of those expenses,” Waldrip said. “And I know at this point we’re probably not done with additional expenses that we’ll be expending on these responses to COVID.”