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Louisville Metro Council OKs Budget Emphasizing Roads, Parks and Public Safety

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The Louisville Metro Council on Thursday approved a $873 million budget for the upcoming 2016 fiscal year, with a caveat that the total could increase by roughly $5 million for road paving if surplus funds are not available at the end of this fiscal year.

The budget passed with a 25-1 vote. Councilwoman Mary Woolridge, Democrat from District 4, was the lone dissenter.

Better roads, boosted public safety, maintenance on public buildings and neighborhood investment were priorities in the budget process, said budget committee chairwoman Cheri Bryant-Hamilton, a Democrat from District 5.

The push to find nearly $5 million in additional funds for improving city roadscame in the final weeks of the budget process.

Ultimately, the council agreed to increase what was a $10 million bond by nearly $5 million to fund the effort, said budget committee vice chair Kelly Downard, a District 16 Republican.

Julie Denton, a District 19 Republican, said she had concerns about increasing the debt amount by $5 million for repaving roads.

She said it would be more responsible to find another way to pay for the effort besides increasing the city's debt.

Downard said the city will be looking for additional surplus funds that can go toward paying for the road improvement effort. If the funds are available the debt will be reduced, he said.

He said "his gut" feeling is the city will find the funds in overages when the current fiscal year ends at the end of the month.

"I think they've got something, somewhere," he said.

The road improvement plan will allocate $200,000 to hire an outside agency to reevaluate the city's arterial and corridor roads to determine which are in the most need of repaving, Downard said. The group will provide monthly reports on the process of the road improvement plan.

Council members in each district will be responsible for identifying which neighborhood roads are in the most need of repaving. About $1.9 million will be distributed among the council members for repaving neighborhood roads.

The city's Public Works department will be allocated just more than $3 million to improve the arterial roads.

The council also included a $12 million initiative to develop more affordable housing units in the city.

Other highlights include the approval of $2.8 million to be spent on law enforcementbody cameras. A pilot program is ongoing in the police department's Fifth Division. Other divisions are expected to receive the cameras in the coming months.

City-owned buildings will get about $12 million in improvements. This includes City Hall, community centers and the Kentucky Center for the Arts.

Metro Parks is being allocated $1.6 million for improvements.

The council also approved spending $200,000 on the city's recently instituted needle exchange program. Earlier this week, Louisville health officials reported that 1,352 clean syringes were distributed, 189 used needles were collected and properly disposed of, and 12 participants received an HIV test.

In a statement, Mayor Greg Fischer said:

"I appreciate the Metro Council's careful consideration and bipartisan cooperation the past month on the city's most important policy document -- the budget.

"This $880 million spending plan, One Louisville, strengthens the physical, economical, educational and social connections across Louisville and makes a variety of strategic investments, from police body cameras to construction of the SouthCentral Regional Library to affordable housing -- all without raising taxes.

"It also makes more than $18 million of investments in road pavings, sidewalk repairs and bike lanes -- the largest amount since my administration began -- and it includes funding to grow jobs and the economy. This budget addresses the largest amount of community needs since the recession, and I look forward to implementing it."

Jacob Ryan joined LPM in 2014. Ryan is originally from Eddyville, Kentucky. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.