Budget Committee Approves City Spending Plan for Upcoming Fiscal Year
The Louisville Metro Council's Budget Committee passed a spending plan for the upcoming 2012-13 fiscal year by a unanimous vote.Mayor Greg Fischer submitted his budget proposal to the council earlier this month, which had been criticized for its lack of funding to external agencies andhammered for cuts to indigent care at University Hospital.Similar to last year, the council reallocated nearly $3 million in funds and added over $400,000 to non-profit groups for their programing.City lawmakers were able to come up with those additional funds in part through an agreement with the Parking Authority of River City to make a payment of $300,000 in cash this year with additional payments of $150,000 over the next five fiscal years.These additional funds were requested by council members who raised questions about a late transfer and payment for the two county parking garages that the city never received. The budget also includes money to focus on dealing with the problem of abandoned and vacant properties with close to $40,000 in funds being spent to mow grass at vacant lots throughout the city."These vacant homes with high weeds are not only devaluing our neighborhoods, they are also a public health risk from the rats and misquotes that are associated with high weeds," Budget Committee Chairwoman Marianne Butler, D-15, said in a news release. "Cleaning up our neighborhoods and offering a better quality of life to our residents is in the forefront of the Council’s initiatives."Another $60,000 was allocated to demolish vacant homes that are not eligible to be razed under federal law. Last year, council members put in additional money that resulted in the destruction of nine abandoned properties.The budget also addressed concerns about Fischer's plan to give another $500,000 in taxpayer dollars toward restoring the historic Whiskey Row buildings along West Main Street. Fischer had proposed creating a revolving loan fund to help restore the properties, which is being developed by a group of wealth Louisville investors.But the loan drew bipartisan opposition from council members who argued the city had already granted private investors a $1.5 million forgivable loan for the project.Budget Committee Vice Chairman Kelly Downard, R-16, was on of three lawmakers threatening to vote against the entire budget if the mayor's deal wasn't changed. He says the council strongly supports the Whiskey Row development and was able to forge an agreement that protects taxpayers."As a result of these deliberations, Metro Government will be seeking an agreement with the developers that will result in Metro Government making an additional $500,000 investment in the property, with an agreement that we will be repaid at least $1 million upon the future sale or refinancing of these properties. This agreement, when reached protects taxpayers,” he says.The cost to revitalize the buildings has tripled since a deal was struck, however. It is now estimated to cost $7 million to restore the structures.The budget bill will be forwarded to the full council for approval at Thursday's meeting and then will be sent to the mayor's office for Fischer's signature.