LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville Metro Council has passed Mayor Greg Fischer's proposed $1.3 billion budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year in unanimous 26-0 vote Thursday evening.
The budget, proposed by Fischer in April, is the largest in the city's history with a heavy focus on funding for public safety, affordable housing and capital investments.
Since early May, Metro Council has held more than 30 hearings for the budget proposal, looking at spending department-by-department, making changes and listening to pitches and feedback from both the community and city leaders, including Louisville's police chief and jail director.
About $220 million will go toward the Louisville Metro Police Department, which is the largest portion of the city's budget. That's about $25 million more than last year's original budget of just under $200 million.
During her budget pitch to Metro Council, Chief Erika Shields requested new technology, including cars, cameras and guns. Shields wants to continue the department's use of DNA testing, which she said has led to breakthroughs in cases.
"We submitted 323 pieces of evidence, which impacted 31 different homicides. It led to multiple arrests," Shields said during her pitch in May.
Shields also emphasized not just hiring new officers, but also the amount of training that goes into having effective orders that will keep the city safe. In May, she said 48 individuals had been hired onto the force so far this year, and that resignations and retirements had slowed down in the department. Additionally, she emphasized hiring curriculum writers to help rework and update the academic side of policing, saying professional educators will help build bridges between police and the communities they serve, adding that all that's needed in some cases is fundamental decency.
Another $58 million of the budget will go to the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections, with an additional $150,000 is going towards improvements and mental health resources at the jail in downtown Louisville.
Jerry Collins, who took over as the jail's director shortly after the eighth death of an incarcerated person in less than six months, made his first budget pitch to Council earlier this month. Last month, he showed council members what improvements in the jail he had already made since taking over.
One of those improvements is the addition of one-point entry, meaning those entering the jail use the same door. It's a measure centered around preventing drugs from getting inside the doors. Collins said earlier this month that more than 40 searches had turned up contraband. A new body scanner was also installed soon after he took over, which he said resulted in 20 additional charges — 90% of which were drug-related.
Collins' budget pitch had a focus on security and the well-being of those incarcerated in the jail. He said he hopes to install two more body scanners and 197 security cameras, which he said will help them monitor every incarcerated person. Additionally, Collins said he's planning on converting seven rooms into suicide-prevention cells, two of which will be on the women's side of the jail.
In light of the death crisis, Collins told Council President David James that a review of the jail's services is still ongoing. In the meantime, he's looking for ways to improve the mental health conditions for staff members and those that are in the cells.
The jail, however, is still dealing with a staffing shortage with about 100 vacancies.
The latest change to the budget happened during a hearing at Metro Hall on Tuesday to allow more funding for infrastructure spending. Council committee members voted to allocate $34 million to repave or repair roads and sidewalks across the city.
The committee said they saved millions by cutting unnecessary jobs and eliminating some project spending, Councilman Kevin Kramer, R-11, said Tuesday.
"Kind of like the found money in the couch. So what do you do with that? You want to make sure you use it in a way that didn't increase our expenses moving forward," Kramer said.
Under the committee's proposal, $30 million of the saved money will repave roads, $1 million will repair and repave city alleys and $3 million will go toward new sidewalks.
The council's plan would spend more on homeless outreach and spread millions of dollars across community parks, including $350,000 to replace the roof at the Iroquois Amphitheater.
The committee also set aside money for Waterfront Park's expansion to the west beyond Ninth Street, which is expected to begin sometime this fall.
During another budget hearing in May, Metro Council focused on Louisville developments, from Portland to Prospect, along with affordable housing.
According to Louisville Forward, a government-led economic development organization, there are thousands of vacant lots and abandoned buildings scattered across the city, something the organization's director called "a huge problem."
The Vacant and Abandoned Properties department helps turn dilapidated houses into homes. In the original budget from last year, just under $4 million, ultimately led to 150-200 foreclosures and around 100 demolitions.
A total of $40 million from American Rescue Plan funding will be placed in the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund to help developers build affordable housing.
The organization is going to work with contractors to help build homes for those struggling to maintain a place to live and fill a need for the city.
The budget will go into effect next Friday, July 1.
This story will be updated.
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- Police budget increase, jail upgrades stand out in mayor's $1.3 billion proposed budget
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