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Surplus Spending Plan Clears Committee, Heads To Full Council

city Hall
city Hall

The Louisville Metro Council will vote later this week to finalize the city's surplus spending plan.

The council's 12-member bipartisan budget committee unanimously approved the plan after a two-hour special meeting Tuesday evening.

According to that plan, the bulk of the $6.2 million budget surplus will be spent on initiatives and programs aimed at boosting public safety and tamping down crime in Louisville.

"We have an epidemic in our community of violence, of gang activity, and what we've done is created a primary focus on that specific aspect," said Councilwoman Angela Leet, a District 7 Republican and co-chair of the council's budget committee.

Homicides are at a record high this year, and gunshots are also up from prior years. The surging violence has troubled the city and its leaders all year.

Police Chief Steve Conrad has drawn criticism from council members and the police union for a recent reorganization that disbanded division level flex platoons. Those same parties have pleaded for more police officers to help tamp down the city's violent crime.

In response, the council will likely approve a spending plan allocating $700,000 for 28 more police recruits and $1.2 million for additional officer overtime pay.

The police department will also likely receive $86,800 to hire crime and firearm analysts, $135,000 to support a set of task forces related to drug and gang intervention, and some $40,000 to bolster cell phone surveillance capabilities.

In approving the police department's allocation, council members demanded police officials submit a report to the council's public safety committee before March 2017 breaking down their initiatives' successes or failures.

"If we get the results, we hope to get that money will be well spent," said Councilman Kevin Kramer, chair of the minority Republican caucus.

Continuing with the public safety theme, the council approved more than $680,000 in boosted allocations for the city's office of safe and healthy neighborhoods.

The department was created in 2013 and works to reduce shootings, homicides, suicides and overdose deaths.

The surplus spending plan for the department includes funding to bolster staff and expand or continue a smattering of programming that includes felony expungement, peace education and a "peace basketball league."

Also included in the department's spending plan is $150,000 for the Louisville Urban League's No More Red Dots program, which employs "interrupters" to intervene in criminal happenings before they occur.

The council is also requesting officials from the office of safe and healthy neighborhoods report back before March on the success of the programming being funded through the surplus.

"What we want to see is 'who have you reached, how are you engaging with people in the community and what results are you seeing,'" said Councilman Bill Hollander, chair of the council's majority Democratic caucus.

Other surplus spending allocations include $665,000 for overtime hours at Louisville Metro Corrections, $160,000 for more garbage cans in the Urban Services District and $350,000 for selected pay raises within the city's parks department.

The committee also set aside $110,000 for graffiti removal, but before the funds are released the city's codes and regulations department must provide a plan for how the money will be used, according to the ordinance passed Tuesday evening by the council committee.

The council will vote to finalize the spending plan on Thursday, which will be its final meeting of 2016.

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.