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Metro Council To Vote On Fischer's Proposed Budget This Week

city hall
J. Tyler Franklin
Louisville City Hall

The Louisville Metro Council this week is set to cast final votes on the city's upcoming spending plan.

Council members have spent the past two months examining Mayor Greg Fischer's $839 million budget proposal. They've met with agency heads and nonprofit leaders, alike, to formulate their priorities regarding where the city's funds should go.

Fischer wants to spend a bulk of the city budget on public safety — in departments like the police, fire and ambulance.

Ensuring residents are safe and have access to key emergency services is a critical role of local governments, he said.

Public Safety

Under Fischer's plan, the police department would receive a near 10 percent budget increase compared to the current year. That would bring the department's annual budget to $182 million.

Some activists have criticized that spending proposal.

Chanelle Helm, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Louisville, said more city funds should be directed to the Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods — which, under Fischer's plan, is slated for $1.6 million.

The office focuses on building community engagement and supports to help reduce violent crime, overdoses and suicides.

Instead of additional police, Helm said she'd like to see more staffing in the Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods — which she believes is underfunded.

Affordable Housing

Fischer is also looking to funnel $14 million into programs designed to bolster the city's stock of affordable housing.

The Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund is slated to get $2.5 million in funding, despite the group’s plea for $10 million.

Housing advocates estimate the city needs thousands of additional affordable housing units to meet the demand.

Nearly 60,000 households here spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and nearly 24,000 of those spend at least 50 percent of their income on housing, according to U.S. Census data.

Families that spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing are considered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to be cost-burdened. They may struggle to afford other necessities such as food, clothing and medical care.

Some council members, however, have pushed to reorganize elements of Fischer's proposed allocation for affordable housing.

Councilman Brent Ackerson, a Democrat from District 26, issued a news release earlier this month calling for some $3 million to be added to the trust fund’s allocation. He wants to take it from the Louisville CARES program, a revolving loan fund introduced by Fischer in 2015 to help bolster the city’s stock of affordable housing.

Fischer is proposing a $12 million bond to further that program in his current spending plan.

Ackerson said moving money from the Louisville CARES program to the trust fund would “move us closer to the vision of the Metro Council from 2008 and toward a more realistic and permanent fund to serve the needs of this community.”

Councilman Bill Hollander, chair of the council’s majority Democratic caucus and a staunch supporter of affordable housing, said he's not opposed to shifting the funds, but it's imperative, he said, that the funding for affordable housing not be reduced in it's entirety.

Fiber Internet

Fischer's push to spend nearly $6 million on a program to install fiber internet infrastructure across the city, including a stretch of western Louisville, could hit a snag when it comes time for a final council vote.

The proposal came under question during budget hearings earlier this month.

City officials hope the infrastructure would serve as a needed spark to get private companies to boost service options in western Louisville. And they'd look to lease the infrastructure to companies until it's needed for city services.

But councilman Kevin Kramer, a Republican from the Hikes Point area, said a city funded fiber expansion should be used solely for city purposes.

Kramer worries that leasing the line out to companies could spell trouble for local government, which may need to tap into that connection in the coming years — and in doing so could be forced to terminate leases with those residential providers.

“I think it would be a mistake on the city’s part to find themselves in a situation where, down the road, someone who got high speed internet access because of us, lost high speed internet access because of us,” he said earlier this month.

Fischer is also looking to spend $600,000 on tree planting; $500,000 on bike lanes and $100,000 on the city's arts master plan.

The council will vote on the budget during their regularly scheduled meeting set for Thursday at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Fischer is required to give final approval.

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