Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer unveiled his proposed budget for Metro Government in the 2016-2017 fiscal year on Thursday, with 58 percent of appropriations directed toward public safety and a significant increase for the paving of roads.
In a briefing with reporters Thursday morning, Fischer outlined a proposed total budget of $822 million and a general budget of $583 million that includes over $67 million in bonds and debt, much of which is directed to the city’s outdated or neglected infrastructure and new capital projects.
Nearly $20 million will be appropriated for the paving and repairing of roads, with $3 million for sidewalks and $500,000 for new bike lanes. Fischer said such spending is double what the amount of what was recommended in last year’s budget, and would be the largest total dedicated to paving since merged government. New funds also go toward repairs and renovations at City Hall, Metro Hall, Metro Parks, the Louisville Zoo and Slugger Field, as well the design and construction of a new animal shelter, the new Northeast Regional Library, and the Paristown Pointe development.
Addressing Metro Council Thursday afternoon, Fischer said that his budget “strikes a critical balance by focusing on areas of immediate concern — such as paving bumpy and deteriorating roads — while also making necessary investments to keep our city moving forward.”
In the midst of a recent spike in violent crime and homicides in Louisville, public safety is boosted in the budget with the hiring of 112 new recruits for the Louisville Metro Police Department (roughly 35 more than usual), $640,000 toward overtime pay for officers dedicated to high-crime areas, and $300,000 for new surveillance cameras in areas with a crime problem. Additionally, $12 million will go to replacing the government’s fleet of vehicles, including police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, snow plows and garbage trucks.
Fischer’s budget also devotes significant appropriations for the first time to the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund. While advocates had hoped for $5 million in funding, the mayor’s budget allocates $2.5 million — a great leap from the $100,000 in total local funds it has received since its inception eight years ago. In his budget briefing, Fischer alluded to the possibility of Metro Council finding a dedicated stream of funding for the trust fund through a fee in the city’s next franchise agreement with LG&E, which is currently under negotiation.
Councilman Bill Hollander, D-9, was one of the individuals advocating for $5 million to go toward LAHTF in Fischer’s new budget, but said he is “happy that Mayor Fischer recognized the importance of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund with the first significant local contribution, which is 25 times the total appropriations for housing in all eight years of the fund’s existence.”
At Thursday night’s meeting, Metro Council authorized Fischer’s office to bid again on a new franchise agreement, which could include a wide range of fee options that would be capped at 3 percent. The city could reference a willingness to ask the Public Service Commission to prohibit LG&E from passing off such fees to consumers, as it did with the recent franchise fee that funded increased policing.
Hollander says he is glad Fischer recognized that the need for a dedicated recurring source of revenue for the LAHTF is important, as no such source has been found since $10 million per year was first recommended in 2008. He also notes that if a fee is approved in a franchise agreement, this is one of several possible sources for the trust fund.
“We’ll keep working to build support for a dedicated recurring source of revenue in whatever form that makes sense and garners support across the community,” says Hollander. “That’s one option, but there are others as well.”
Councilwoman Angela Leet, R-7, says she is glad the city appears to be moving in the right direction financially, but is concerned that there might not be enough funds in Fischer’s budget that go directly to paving repairs for existing roads.
“We have to continue to press on our paving needs, making sure that the $23 million that’s in the mayor’s budget is actually prioritized to paving and doesn’t include new roads, new sidewalks, streetscapes, that it emphasizes the paving needs of the community,” says Leet, citing recent figures from Public Works Director Vanessa Burns on the pressing need to address the city’s crumbling roads.
Below is a list of some of the significant projects and maintenance funded in the mayor’s proposed budget:
- $6.1 million for new computers and software for city government to improve efficiency
- $4 million for HVAC repairs and renovation at Slugger Field
- $1.7 million in repairs for Metro Parks
- $1 million in repairs for the Louisville Zoo
- $950,000 for planning of the Waterfront Park’s Phase IV westward expansion
- $2.6 million for revitalization of the Russell neighborhood and the CHOICE initiative
- $650,000 for the design of the Northeast Regional Library
- $500,000 for The Healing Place’s capital campaign, to increase their capacity of detox beds for recovering heroin addicts
- $100,000 for a new public art project
- $100,000 for incentive for private businesses to install cool roofs to combat the city’s heat island effect
- $3.4 million for a new animal shelter in Newburg to replace the outdated one on Manslick Road
- $350,000 for new sidewalks around the West Louisville FoodPort
- $1 million to gain control of vacant and abandoned properties