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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky lawmakers stripped state funding for Waterfront Park from their recently approved budget, a move that will force the cancellation of at least one event and result in cutting back the Belle of Louisville's centennial birthday celebration, according to the Waterfront Development Corp.
The Waterfront agency announced the cuts, two days after the Ky. House and Senate agreed to a two-year budget. The state funds had amounted to $420,800 of the agency's $2.4 million annual budget.
"That's a significant number," said Deputy Director of Waterfront Development Mike Kimmel. "It immediately means we are going to scale back on events that cost us money."
According to Kimmel, the cut amounts to 18 percent of their total budget.
Kimmel said they didn't expect the cut, calling it "quite the surprise."
Waterfront Park funding was included in the House version of the budget, but was cut by the Senate.
State Senate Majority Caucus Chair Dan Seum told WDRB that no one with the city or park actively rallied for continued funding--so to him--it was a sign that funding wasn't a top priority. Plus, he added, cuts had to be made.
The Waterfront Development Corporation immediately responded by looking for areas of their budget that could be slimmed down.
The Independence Festival, which runs July 3-4 in Waterfront Park is currently canceled. Kimmel said even with sponsors, the event would have cost them $75,000 to $80,000.
Belle of Louisville's Centennial Celebration will likely be shortened from six days to one. The event will also no longer include maritime guests from across the country.
"It was a big disappointment," said Belle of Louisville CEO Linda Harris. "It was a pretty big honor to have eight of her sister boats coming to town to help her celebrate, but there are realities to face."
But, Harris said, the celebration will go on.
"We don't know the scope of that celebration yet, but there will be a party."
Ultimately, in Kimmel's opinion, it was a hasty decision by the legislature. But, he said, they'll find a way.
"This is an incredible economic engine for the community and the state, and that's not going to diminish."