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Lawmakers Differ on Mayor Ignoring Cuts to Council Discretionary Funds

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer will give up his discretionary account to help fill the budget deficit next year, but the Metro Council is split on whether to follow suit.Each council member is given a total of $205,000 to spend annually, with $75,000 in their Neighborhood Development Fund in addition to a $100,000 Capital Infrastructure Fund and $38,000 in their office accounts. During last year's budget address, Fischer warned city lawmakers that they could see their accounts reduced in future budgets to offset growing shortfalls. The mayor’s new spending plan for fiscal year 2012-13, however, makes no reductions to the accounts.Councilman David Yates, D-25, says residents want to reduce spending, but local representatives should have the ability to appropriate taxpayer money."Should all that money be allocated from the mayor’s office or should it be better left, at least some of that money left all the way down to the Metro Council offices where we’re actually out there on the street talking to the neighbors. I think that’s a very good use of that money," he says.When asked if Fischer still wants to cut the discretionary funds, a spokesman said the mayor is leading by example and eliminating his approximately $40,000 fund. Last year, WFPL uncovered a little known mayoral discretionary fund that had gone unchecked for years with little to no documentation.However, since taking office the mayor has backed off on cutting the council's spending.Council Democrats and Republicans have had a disagreement over discretionary funds since merge, due mainly to Democrats arguing they represent poorer districts and groups requiring additional funding outside the main budget."Several on the council have become quite accustom to and comfortable with those accounts," says Councilman Kevin Kramer, R-11. "The debate tends to be over the amount and it’s very difficult to get a very large majority to back and reduce that number."But for those who defend the spending practice, the cuts to certain non-profit groups justifies the funds remaining in council members' hands. Asked about the funds, Council President Jim King, D-10, told WFPL that many city lawmakers plan to use a portion of their monies to boost funding for external agencies and social services cut by the mayor in next year's budget plan.