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Here’s how Louisville Mayor wants to change city spending. And how you can get involved

J. Tyler Franklin
Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg told local lawmakers he went through the city's budget "line by line."

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg says his budget proposal is a “reset.” Take a deeper look at how he wants to change city spending.

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg’s proposed budget would pour more than a billion dollars into the city government next fiscal year — just a slight decrease from the current spending cycle.

Most of that money — $985,273,300 — would fund the myriad of departments that are responsible for a range of local services — police, parks, public works and more. Another $157,330,600 would pay for 90 capital projects across the city, including new roads and sidewalks, police helicopters and repairs to the city’s jail, according to a review of Greenberg’s proposed budget.

This is Greenberg’s second year crafting a spending plan for the city and he’s proposing some noticeable changes to department-level budgets.

“As we think big and make bold, strategic investments, we have to also embrace efficiency, accountability, transparency and the chance to reset,” he told the Louisville Metro Council last month during a speech about the budget plan.

Greenberg wants to cut spending across a quarter of city government.

The proposed cuts come in the wake of a slight dip in city revenues — mostly a result of the end of COVID-19 relief funding — but they aren’t significant enough to outweigh potential spending hikes in some departments. Overall, Greenberg wants to boost city spending.

In all, 10 departments will face budget cuts if the Metro Council approves Greenberg’s proposal, according to a Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting review of his proposed operational budget, which includes money from the city’s general fund, carryover funds from prior years and state and federal grants. He also wants to slash allocations for the county clerk, coroner and local state prosecutor’s office — agencies that are separate from city government and led by elected officials.

The council will spend several weeks evaluating his proposal and holding public hearings with department leaders before voting to finalize the city’s budget next month.

Here’s a look at how Greenberg wants to fund city agencies.

Greenberg’s biggest proposed cut is to the Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods — a city agency tasked with the important, and high profile, job of reducing violent deaths in Louisville, specifically among young people. Former Mayor Greg Fischer created the agency more than a decade ago in the wake of a triple shooting. Since its inception, OSHN has faced skepticism from local lawmakers who’ve questioned the agency’s purpose and ability to meet ambiguous goals.

Homicides, overdoses and suicides account for hundreds of deaths each year in Louisville. Since 2010, neary 1,400 deaths are linked to gun violence alone. The issue disproportionately impacts the city’s Black residents, specifically Black men: more than 70% of gun homicide victims are Black and more than 82% of victims are men, according to data maintained by OSHN.

Greenberg wants to cut 20% from the agency’s budget — from $8.4 million to less than $6.7 million — by reducing contractual costs.

He did not detail what contracts the agency would cut. His spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Paul Callanan, the director of OSHN, said in an emailed statement that the agency supports Greenberg’s budget.

He did not specify which contracts would be cut.

“As governance, we are required to adopt to changing situations and conditions. It is likely several programs we fund will be affected and that will require us to pivot our approach for the strong continuance of driving down local gun violence,” he said.

Other notable cuts Greenberg wants include a 17% reduction in spending for the Office of Management and Budget, which handles the city’s finances, and 15% for the Department of Economic Development.

The economic development cuts include a virtual bottoming-out of the county’s Soil and Water Conservation District, $800,000 from the Fund for the Arts HeARTS program and $125,000 from the Louisville Orchestra.

Greenberg also wants to cut funding for KentuckianaWorks by eliminating $703,000 for The Spot, a program that provides job resources to young adults between 16 and 24 years old.

Michael Gritton, the executive director of KentuckianaWorks, said even with the proposed reduction, Greenberg’s pending plan sets aside more funding for the agency than in years prior.

“The other thing that softens the blow slightly is that for the first time ever, the state legislature decided this year in their budget to invest through the 10 local workforce boards around the state to give us money to serve more of the same young adults we're serving at The Spot,” he said.

The increases

Despite the department-specific cuts, Greenberg’s budget will increase overall city spending by 7% — thanks mostly to a $5 million infusion of funding into the newly created Office of Philanthropy to help jumpstart Greenberg’s universal Pre-K program. This year, the office’s budget is less than $500,000.

Greenberg wants to boost spending for the Parks and Recreation Department to help fund new positions at the Baxter Community Center and Algonquin pool — two places that are undergoing major renovations and, once opened, are expected to attract significant crowds. The department is also set to receive $12 million in federal grants, which will lead to an overall budget increase of 70%.

“Taking care of our parks, and making them even better is an important part of the work we do to make our city safer, stronger and healthier,” Greenberg said during his recent address to Metro Council.

The city’s troubled police department would also get a funding boost under Greenberg’s proposal. The Louisville Metro Police Department is under intense scrutiny after federal investigators with the U.S. Department of Justice found officers routinely violate people’s civil rights with excessive force, illegal searches and discrimination. Greenberg wants to boost the agency’s budget by 9% — to $242 million — which he said is necessary to help pay for equipment and training for police officers. The police department also needs $375,000 for “monitoring” of a coming consent decree, according to the budget proposal.

Greenberg also wants to spend $5 million in capital funds to buy new license plate readers, surveillance cameras and helicopters for the police department.

Other capital fund projects include $7 million to improve parks across the city, $49 million for roads, sidewalks, bridges and pathways, and $43 million for improvements to city facilities — including $15 million for a transformation of the Belvedere and Fourth Street in downtown Louisville — a project getting help from an infusion of state funding.

How can you get involved

You can review an online copy of Greenberg’s budget proposal and submit comments here.

Metro Council will begin holding budget hearings with each department this week. A calendar is here.

The council will also hold a community budget meeting on May 23 at 5 p.m. in downtown Louisville’s City Hall.

Council members can also be reached via email and phone. Find your council member here.

This story has been updated.

Investigative Reporter Lily Burris is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Email Lily at lburris@lpm.org.

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