LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Thursday night, one-by-one, more than 40 people took turns sharing their thoughts, opinions, and ideas with Louisville Metro Council about proposed cuts to the city budget.
With the city's back up against a unforgiving financial wall, council members wanted that input as it determines how to pay for a $65 million pension obligation over the next four years.
"We've got a $35 million bill that's due in July," one of the speakers, James Pack, reminded them.
Some showed up to support a tax hike plan proposed by Mayor Greg Fischer that would triple the city's tax on some insurance premiums as a way to create new revenue, pay the pension invoice, and avoid deep cuts to city services like police, corrections, and firefighting.
"A fire department that is not properly staffed is like driving under the influence. You might get away with it some of the time, but all of the time, you are in grave danger and so is everyone around you," said Capt. Brian O'Neill, a firefighter and representative of the Louisville Professional Firefighters.
Others argued to council, beyond public safety, it would be painful to see cuts to libraries, non-profits, even city swimming pools.
"Louisville has a surprising shortage of indoor pools," pleaded Michael Jury with the Lakeside Swim Team. "Please don't make our problem any worse."
But many others had different feelings.
"When the government screws up, they just stick a gun in your head, and say 'Send me more money.' And I'm getting tired of it!" Donna Mancini told council members.
Those like Mancini think a tax hike on some insurance premiums would be just as painful as cuts.
"We are not the lifestyles of the rich and famous," said Yolanda Walker, who lives in the California neighborhood. "This is a working-class city is what Louisville is."
As for solutions, some taxpayers said the city should cut managers from top-heavy departments.
"We've got a director, three assistant directors, a chief of staff, a chief of staff that's only been there for two years -- that job was created for her," said Ronnie Goforth with the Louisville Metro Youth Detention Services.
Others, like the National Action Network's Kathleen Parks, presented solutions a bit more unusual.
"The short-term plan is we are proposing that our city set up a GoFundMe account," she told council.
Council, meanwhile, seems to be seeking out a third option -- a combination of cuts with a smaller tax hike. Two councilmen who originally supported the mayor's tax plan -- Bill Hollander and Pat Mulvihill -- both voiced support for a hybrid approach during a Democratic caucus meeting Thursday afternoon. Democrats will start spit-balling potential cuts in the coming days.
"There needs to be a balanced approach: not 'A,' not 'Z,' but ‘M’ or 'N' — something more in the middle," Mulvihill said.
Republicans, meanwhile, are working on a plan of their own that would only include cuts and no tax hike at all.
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