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Metro Council Committee Advances Budget That Preserves Police Funding

J. Tyler Franklin

When Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer proposed a continuation budget in April, it was with the assumption that the coronavirus pandemic would decimate city revenues. At the time, mass protests for racial justice and accountability in the case of the police killing of Breonna Taylor were weeks away.

Since that initial proposal, new information and new demands — particularly from Black Louisvillians — have emerged.

Metro Council’s budget committee unanimously passed amendments to the Mayor’s proposed operating and capital budget Monday that attempt to address some of those concerns. The full body is expected to vote on the budget on Thursday.

But what they didn’t do is make any effort to “defund” the police, a demand that has increased in Louisville and nationally in recent weeks from those who prefer to see funds reallocated to social services and other departments in light of concerns about police brutality against people from minority groups, especially Black people.

Earlier this month, Fischer said he did not believe the “community of Louisville” wants to defund the police.

Last Friday, a group of Black leaders led by Sadiqa Reynolds of the Louisville Urban League publicly called for, among other things, a $50 million Black community fund for efforts such as small business support, affordable housing, educational programs and trauma and mental health support for the Black community. The document is called “A Path Forward.”

“They must be both educational and economic solutions because racism, while wide-reaching and pervasive, cannot be detached from the direct and serious educational and economic impacts on those who suffer and those (who) benefit from it,” the proposal reads. “Therefore, we, the people, believe that extensive, catalytic investments in the Black community are required to position this community for creating wealth and educational opportunities that will cross generations.”

The budget committee’s proposals call for investments from the general fund in housing support, a civilian police oversight system and some other projects.

Reynolds was not available to comment after the meeting.

Only one council member, Brandon Coan (D-8), who is not running for reelection, has called for diverting significant funds from the Louisville Metro Police Department. He proposed reallocating 15% of the department’s budget over the next three fiscal years. For this year, he called for cutting about $8.9 million from LMPD’s proposed $178.9 million budget. His proposal did not gain traction in Monday’s meeting.

Last week, Daniel Frockt, the city’s chief financial officer, told the committee that the budget outlook is better than expected due to smaller hits to occupational and net profits taxes than were originally projected.

As a result, Frockt said he expects general fund revenues for the fiscal year ending June 30 and the new one starting July 1 to be $610 million each year.

The capital and operating budget proposals passed Monday by the budget committee aim to take advantage of that improved revenue outlook, as well as federal funding through the CARES Act, which allows expenditures related to coronavirus response to be reimbursed. Louisville has received $134 million from the federal government for those efforts.

The proposals also call for redirecting $1.2 million in state forfeiture funds “for exploration and implementation in deflection, a practice that moves individuals away from the criminal justice system in a behavioral health guided model.” That includes placing behavioral health specialists with police officers for additional support. The proposals also call for recruiting more police officers to create a force that "more closely looks like and lives in the community," and “training, including use of force, de-escalation, and implicit bias.” The council members also called for Fischer to direct $1.6 million in federal forfeiture funds for these efforts.

Here are some of the changes passed by Metro Council that would be funded by the city’s general fund:

  • $763,500 to the Criminal Justice Commission for a proposed civilian oversight system, which could include an Office of Inspector General. Fischer called for a civilian review board along with other policy changes as national furor over Breonna Taylor’s killing grew.
  • $3.5 million for a community grocery store via the Department of Health and Wellness and its Center for Health Equity, which would also get $100,000 for a new health equity report. The most recent such report is from 2017.
  • $1 million for undesignated programs to support disconnected youth and young adults, which is less than the $1.5 million proposed by Fischer. The council budget also eliminates funding for Evolve502, a public-private partnership that supports educational achievement, which Fischer’s proposal preserved.
  • An additional $5 million for the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund and partners; $2.5 million in grants for homeowners and to rehab or repair abandoned properties; $1 million for a new Homeowner and Rental Repair Loan Fund; $413,400 for a Metro Public Works crew to focus particularly on cleaning up alleys; and $170,000 for two new Code Enforcement Officers.

The committee also proposed using federal reimbursements from the CARES Act for the following:

  • Up to $21.2 million in small business support, at least half of which would be reserved for businesses in low- and moderate-income tracts, including the majority-Black neighborhoods of west Louisville.
  • Up to $21.2 million “for rent assistance needed to prevent evictions as a result of coronavirus-related financial issues.” The amendment specified this support targets those who make up to 60% of the area median income, which goes beyond the city’s lowest-income households.

Additional changes include increasing the paving budget by $14.3 million through borrowing, including $700,000 for a road study; increasing the sidewalk repair budget by $500,000; providing the Belle of Louisville $700,000 for a required dry-dock inspection and repair plus $500,000 for its operations; and $500,000 to “outfit the Middletown Library, at a location provided at no cost to Louisville Metro by the City of Middletown.”

Last year, the Council passed a budget that cut more than $25 million from the city’s capital and operating budgets due to rising employee health care and pension costs. Pension cost increases were frozen this year due to the pandemic.

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

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