LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- City leaders are planning cuts in services to fill a $35 million void in next year's budget.
Mayor Greg Fischer outlined some austerity measures including the cancellation of a Louisville Metro Police recruiting class in June. He also says city employees have been told that insurance premiums will go up three percent, and deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses will also rise.
The city is also looking at possibly eliminating cost-of-living increases for Metro Government employees. About 75 percent of employees are represented by unions, so letters were sent to union leaders this week asking them to present the zero-wage increase to their membership. Those letters were not well received by union leaders.
The mayor also said the parks and recreations department will not open four of the city's outdoor swimming pools this summer, and fees will increase at the Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center. The decision is being made now because it impacts the hiring of lifeguards.
“I do not want to close the pools. But we have to hire people not knowing whether or not we have a budget that would be approved to pay for those people,” Fischer said.
Metro Councilman Mark Fox said he is not surprised that his district’s Fairdale pool is closing.
“There is going to be pain felt in this process,” said Fox.
Fox said he opposed the tax hike because that is what his constituents wanted, even after he warned them they could lose services such as the swimming pool.
“I said that pain can either be felt in a tax today, or it can felt when you take your children to the pool and it's closed,” Fox told WDRB News.
Fox said he is not happy that the mayor is cutting police recruits, but added, the budget challenge, "gives us the opportunity to look at systems, and to streamline things, and to be very efficient with what we've got.”
Fischer said the city will examine leases and contracts that need to be canceled. The contract with ShotSpotter will also be examined. That is the system that monitors high-crime areas to alert police to gunfire.
"ShotSpotter costs $400,000 a year," Fischer said. "For $400,000 a year, we can have five police officers. So you want ShotSpotter, or you want to reduce five police officers?"
The Louisville Tourism board is also stepping in with $500,000 to keep the Belle of Louisville operating.
"We'll be asking everybody to pitch in more than ever to help us through this budget challenge this year and for the years to come," Fischer said.
Mayor Fischer said he and his team are also meeting with suburban city mayors to discuss operations, costs and contributions to libraries and other city services throughout the county.
Fischer said the cuts amount to less than $5 million . He will submit his entire budget proposal by April 25. He said he has called on Metro Council members who opposed the tax increase he initially suggested to submit ideas for cuts. So far, he hasn't received any.
Metro Council President David James said they are "desperately" seeking ideas from city employees and the public to make cuts to the budget. Council budget chairman Bill Hollander said this will be a "difficult" process. He plans to hold public hearings on the budget.
All city employees were sent an email with a form for submitting ideas for efficiency. City residents can find information about the budget and a form to submit suggestions at louisvilleky.gov.
Metro Council is scheduled to vote on a final budget on June 25. The new fiscal year begin on July 1.
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