Louisville Metro Council approved the city’s operating and capital budget for the next fiscal year at a special meeting Tuesday evening, which did not substantially change the amended city budget that was approved by the budget committee last week.
Most features of Mayor Greg Fischer’s proposed budget unveiled in April were left untouched in the budget given final approval, which devoted 55 percent of its $621 million general fund to public safety, plus over $18 million for road paving and $4 million for sidewalk repairs and new bike lanes.
The final operating budget passed by a 21 to 3 vote, with Republican Councilwomen Angela Leet, Julie Denton and Marilyn Parker being the only no votes. The accompanying capital projects budget — including $120 million in grants, bonds and reserve funds — passed by a 20 to 4 vote, with Republican Councilman Scott Reed joining his three Republican colleagues in voting no.
Fischer had called this particular budget especially challenging, as the city’s pension and health care costs for employees increased by $19 million from the current year. To make room for these increased costs and other budget priorities that received increased funding, the mayor called for the position of 49 city workers to be eliminated through attrition.
The main point of debate before the council approved the final budget Tuesday was a new amendment to move the Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods out of the city health department and into its own new agency, in addition to requiring it to make quarterly financial reports to the council — with the first report due on Oct. 20 — or else have its funding restricted.
The Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods’ Cure Violence initiative — using teams of “interrupters” to identify and intervene with those who are at the highest risk of committing violence — had its funding doubled to $2.6 million in the budget, a large priority for the mayor’s public safety strategy.
Several members, including Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton, objected that the office was being unfairly targeted and “set up to fail” by the reporting requirements, but the amendment passed by a 17 to 6 vote.
The budget also includes $10 million in bonding — to be sold late in the fiscal year or early in the next fiscal year — for the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the second year that it has received that amount from the city. The proposed track and field facility at the Heritage West site in west Louisville also received the promise of a $10 million bond in the same time frame.
Amendments to the budget passed by the committee last week included a $350,000 increase in appropriations for Centerstone Kentucky’s new Living Room Project, which diverts those with drug addiction or mental health issues into treatment and services instead of prison. While its total appropriation of $1 million is still $300,00 shy of what the nonprofit requested to expand this program, Councilman Bill Hollander, D-9, expressed optimism Tuesday in the Democratic caucus meeting that Centerstone would be able to do so.
The budget amendments from last week included an additional $265,000 for the Louisville Free Public Library, which is enough to fully staff the new Northeast Regional Library and renovated St. Matthew branch when both are ready to open next spring.
This library funding means that the Fischer administration will not have to go through on its previous proposal to move 20 employees from the main downtown branch to these new branches, which would have amounted to over a third of that branch’s staff and was anticipated to lead to its reduction in services.
Since the mayor unveiled his proposed budget in late April, the council and its budget committee held 30 hearings on the budget over the next two months, receiving input from the public and questioning the agencies that were requesting and receiving funding.