Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer unveils $822 million budget
Police, fire and other first responders stand to get 58 percent of the budget, including funds to hire firefighters and police officers, add police overtime in the city’s most violent neighborhoods and install more surveillance cameras.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Mayor Greg Fischer’s $822 million budget proposal helps fund the westward expansion of Waterfront Park, a new eastern Jefferson County library and upgrades at Louisville Slugger Field.
It invests in a grant program for businesses that want to install “cool roofs” that reflect sunlight, pumps money into an affordable housing trust fund that has lacked reliable revenue and fixes existing roads, bridges and sidewalks.
The budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year provides money for a new $5.2 million animal shelter on Newburg Road that will replace a Manslick Road facility that sits in a flood plain. It allows Metro government to modernize aging computer systems and make repairs at city parks and the Louisville Zoo.
READ THE BUDGET PROPOSAL
But public safety departments benefit most from the spending plan Fischer released Thursday. Police, fire and other first responders stand to get 58 percent of the budget, including funds to hire firefighters and police officers, add police overtime in the city’s most violent neighborhoods and install more surveillance cameras.
“The increase in violent crime in our city as it relates to gunshots, gunshot wounds and homicides is something that’s a significant problem for us right now,” Fischer said in a briefing with reporters.
The city would use $300,000 in state asset forfeiture funds to expand its Metro Watch Camera program. Fischer administration officials said new cameras would be placed across the city, but they were not able to immediate say how many cameras would be added.
In all, Fischer is proposing a $178.2 million budget for the Louisville Metro Police Department, a 4 percent increase from last year. With money to hire 122 recruits, LMPD could have 37 new officers, based on annual retirement and attrition figures provided by Daniel Frockt, the city’s chief financial officer.
The overall budget includes $706.7 million for operations of city agencies and departments and $115.3 million in capital spending and debt payments. The plan now goes to the Metro Council.
Representatives of the majority Democratic and minority Republican caucuses said the mayor’s push for spending on the Northeast Regional Library in Lyndon and street paving are examples of initiatives that should get widespread council support.
Fischer said his administration has kept the council’s budget committee, chaired by Democrat Marianne Butler, apprised of the proposal. “They’ve been involved with it a great deal, so there won’t be any surprises in it for them,” he said.
The budget uses a “Fix It First” strategy that emphasizes paving and repairs, spending $23.5 million on improving streets, Fischer said. Metro government has a maintenance backlog estimated at $288 million.
City-owned Slugger Field would get $4 million for heating and air conditioning upgrades and repairs to restrooms and the ballpark’s roof. Metro Parks stands to receive $1.7 million for repairs at its parks under Fischer’s budget.
“While you’re seeing a lot more in this budget, the need is still great,” the mayor said.
The animal shelter, where construction is expected to start within a year, is one of several new capital projects funded in the mayor’s proposed budget. Fischer also is proposing $650,000 in design funds for the Northeast Regional Library on Bellevoir Circle in Lyndon and $950,000 to continue the master plan for the next, western phase of Waterfront Park.
The group Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together had pushed for Fischer’s budget to include $5 million for the city’s affordable housing trust fund, which was created in 2008 but has struggled to get a dedicated revenue source.
Fischer said the $2.5 million for the fund in his budget is a “good step” and he floated the possibility that a franchise fee Louisville Gas & Electric had been paying to the city could be used for affordable housing.
Beverly Duncan, CLOUT's co-president, said in a statement that Fischer's budget falls short and is "nowhere near enough to meet the current need in our community for affordable housing, especially as more federal housing funding expires. We're counting on Metro Council to get the Trust Fund the full $5 million it needs this year, and to establish a dedicated annual revenue source in the coming months.”
The budget is the first since the Fischer administration released a plan to cool down the city’s urban heat islands, or places laden with sun-absorbing rooftops, asphalt and concrete that are much warmer than surrounding suburban and rural areas.
Fischer is proposing $100,000 in incentives geared mainly toward commercial buildings that want to add “cool roofs.” Louisville Forward, the city’s economic development agency, is developing details of the grant program, Fischer spokesman Chris Poynter said.
The mayor also is including $100,000 in planning funds for a redesigned stretch of Broadway from the Shawnee neighborhood to the Highlands. The street was among the projects identified in “Move Louisville,” the city’s long-term transportation plan unveiled in April.
The proposal spends $500,000 to expand the city’s network of bicycle lanes, adding 65 more miles for a total of 200. It’s the largest such investment since Fischer took office, his office said.
“People are demanding multi-modal transportation – cars, buses, better walkability and bikeability – so we’re continuing to make that type of commitment,” Fischer said.
The mayor’s spending plan also sets aside:
-$2.6 million in connection with the redevelopment of the Russell neighborhood in western Louisville.
-$500,000 to help the Healing Place expand addiction-treatment services.
-$9.8 million to the Louisville Arena Authority to help pay off construction debt on the KFC Yum! Center. That’s the maximum amount the city must pay under its agreement with the arena agency.
-About $1.4 million, or a 2 percent raise, for the city’s nonunion workers.
This story will be updated.
Copyright 2016 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.