LITTLE VALLEY — Cattaraugus County budget officials are deep into talks with department heads on their 2022 budget requests.

The 2021 budget is $248.5 million with a tax levy of $55.5 million.

Cattaraugus County was notified earlier this year it was eligible for $14.7 million in American Rescue Plan funding. The first $7.4 million from the ARP has been received by the county and the rest will come next year.

The county will seek the initial American Rescue Plan funding to deal with the loss of revenue due to the pandemic. The revenues will be placed in a separate fund within the county budget.

“The vast majority of the funding will deal with revenue loss,” said County Administrator Jack Searles.

What to do with that ARP revenue has been discussed in private. Some proposals may come out soon in the form of county legislature resolutions.

County lawmakers hired a Syracuse firm, the Bonadio Group, to advise the county on spending ARP funds. An assistant to Searles is being hired to keep an eye on funding requests.

County Legislature Chairman Howard VanRensselaer said earlier that legislators were looking at possible projects for the ARP funds including roads, updating refuse transfer stations, buying medical equipment for rescue squads and ambulances, and for improvements at the county-operated Onoville Marina Park on the Allegheny Reservoir.

Searles said he anticipated legislators to talk about the best uses for the ARP funds soon. “We’re waiting for the Legislature to make an announcement.”

The county must be prepared to provide records of expenses from the ARP funds, Searles said. There will be an application process and each project will be tracked in separate accounts. Counties fully expect to be audited, he added. The Bonadio Group will be consulted at every step.

Some accounts have already been set up to receive the initial $7.4 million in ARP funds, Searles said.

Meanwhile, work continues on the 2022 budget preparation with a target of Nov. 3, the day after Election Day.

County Legislature committees will begin their review with Searles and department heads the following week. An in-person public hearing on the budget is expected under COVID-19 protocols on Nov. 23, followed by passage of the budget.

(Contact county reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com)