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Metro Council Budget Committee OKs Amended Surplus Spending Plan

A Louisville Metro Council committee is shuttling a proposed surplus spending plan on to the full council for final approval.

The proposed plan will spread the near $10 million surplus among social programs and infrastructure repair efforts. The committee voted unanimously to approve the proposal.

The specifics of how to spend the projected $10 million surplus has been the center of council debate since it's unveiling earlier this year.

Council members have butted heads on which entities should benefit from the surplus money.

Two proposals for spending the funding were initially proposed by two council Democrats. Councilman Brent Ackerson submitted a call to send the entirety of the surplus to capital infrastructure repair -- namely, road repair.

Ackerson repeatedly cautioned his colleagues if the road repair deficit is neglected the city will be in "a world of hurt financially later as a city."

Councilwoman Marianne Butler's proposal, which initially had support from Mayor Greg Fischer, called to send a bulk of surplus funds to road repair, as well as some funding to social programming, such as drug recovery facility The Healing Place and housing rehab program OneWest.

An amendment to effectively mesh the two proposals came from Councilman Bill Hollander,  another Democrat.

He said he isn't surprised the amendment garnered council support, as it reflected a balanced approach to the surplus allocation.

"We talked to members and said 'what is important to you,'" Hollander said. "While everyone said paving was important to them, other said the heroin epidemic was absolutely the most important thing to them."

The approved spending plan will send just more than $5 million to help repair roads and sidewalks across the city. The plan also allots $500,000 to a campaign to help The Healing Place expand its downtown location and $400,000 to the city's SummerWorks youth employment program.

Other appropriations in the proposed spending plan include $1 million for an expansion of the St. Matthews library, $250,000 for repairs to the Louisville Zoo and $500,000 for a Louisville Metro Police division roof repair.
Also included in the approved plan is a $350,000 allocation for the Louisville Urban League's Rebound housing program. The funds for the urban league were initially being directed to OneWest.

"We felt a greater commitment needed to be made to West Louisville and we advocated for funding for Urban League," said Jennifer Recktenwald, interim director of OneWest.

Recktenwald said the group would make their plea for more funding in the coming months during the regular budget process.

A big loser in the surplus allocation is Louisville Metro Parks.

The city's parks department was initially set to receive $800,000 to fix a maintenance barn that's fallen into dangerous disrepair.

Hollander's amendment, however, nixed the entirety of the allotment.

Seve Ghose, director of the parks department, said he's not entirely disappointed and will fight again for the funding during the regular budget process.

He said getting the funding is critical.

In a statement, Mayor Greg Fischer said he appreciates "the budget committee’s consideration of how to spend this money and look forward to a full vote by the Metro Council at its next meeting."

The full council will consider the plan at their regular meeting next week.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.