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Fischer Outlines Initial Steps In Addressing Budget Gap

With less than a three weeks until Mayor Greg Fischer is scheduled to deliver a substantially shrunken budget to the Metro Council, he announced some changes that he said could start to fill the $35 million hole expected in the next fiscal year.

They include reevaluating leases and contracts, increasing health insurance premiums for most Metro employees and not opening four outdoor public pools this summer.

And despite calls from some Council members to spare public safety, Fischer reaffirmed that the June recruit class for the Louisville Metro Police Department would be canceled.

"With public safety taking up 60 percent of our budget, cuts are unavoidable in the public safety area," Fischer said at a Friday news conference.

He said his team is also considering freezing pay for city employees, including the 75 percent who are union members. Union leaders have so far balked at the proposal, and plan to hold a press conference Monday morning to respond.

Fischer said the changes outlined Friday will help the city save "a couple million dollars, maybe less than $5 million."

On April 25, he will present a budget to the Council that takes into account the $35 million shortfall for the next fiscal year. An increased pension obligation and rising employee health care costs are driving the budget gap.

In February, Fischer laid out some potential budget cuts.

"It won't be exactly what has been put out before, but in broad strokes it'll be very similar," he said.

At least one item Fischer originally floated in his cuts proposal has been saved for now: The Belle of Louisville will remain in operation due to $500,000 in funding from Louisville Tourism. The agency receives most of its funding through a hotel and motel room tax.

Fischer hailed Louisville Tourism for "stepping up" to address the challenge, and called on others to do so as well.

"Our citizens are going to need companies, nonprofits, service organizations, suburban cities, individuals, you name it, to step up and fill some of the gaps that our city government will no longer be able fulfill because of these cuts," he said.

After Fischer presents a budget to the Metro Council on April 25, lawmakers will have until June 25 to finalize it for the new fiscal year, which starts on July 1. City officials will collect ideas from government employees and citizens through April 18. The public form can be accessed here.

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.