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What You Should Know As City Spending Talks Hit Mid-Point

city Hall
city Hall

The Louisville Metro Council is halfway through its examination of the mayor's annual spending proposal.

The council's budget committee has hosted city agency heads since early May to hear their budgetary desires and needs.

To date, the committee has heard from major departments such as the police and jail, public works and parks, among others. Two public hearings have also come and gone — the only scheduled opportunities for residents to formally weigh in on the budget process.

Mayor Greg Fischer presented his $839 million budget proposal a month earlier, as required under a law approved last year by the council.

Councilwoman Marianne Butler, chair of the budget committee, said the extra time allows members to more deeply vet allocation proposals.

"We're not as rushed," she said in an interview.

In prior years, Butler said agency heads have at times had to make multiple appearances before the committee to satisfy the council. This year, however, no "callbacks" have been scheduled, Butler said.

"We've been able to stay on track," she said.

Fischer's proposal focuses heavily on police and other elements of public safety. The police department is in line for a 10 percent boost to its annual funding. If that level is approved, the department would receive more than $182 million in taxpayer funds for the upcoming fiscal year.

The proposal comes as the city's violent crime rate climbs and some council members call for the resignation of police chief Steve Conrad.

Butler has chaired the budget committee for nearly seven years. She said each agency has certain fixed costs necessary to operate, such as facility maintenance costs and required services. These costs leave little room for discretionary spending, such as the many external agencies seeking city funds.

External agencies are nonprofit groups that receive city funds to provide community services like youth and family-focused programming.

This year, Fischer is looking to spend some $8.4 million on various external agencies, including the Fund for the Arts, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana and The Healing Place, among many others.

(Disclosure: Louisville Public Media received $5,000 in city funds this fiscal year and would receive $4,000 next fiscal year under the mayor's proposal.)

Butler said one of the most difficult tasks of city budgeting is deciding which of these agencies will get their proposed funding and which won't.

"They all have great stories," she said.

Councilman Kevin Kramer, the Republican vice chair of the budget committee, could not be reached for a comment on the budget process.

This week, the committee will take a break from examining Fischer's proposed spending, while the council will resume its regular committee schedule.

City lawmakers are set to finalize the budget during their regularly scheduled meeting on June 22.

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.

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