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Louisville council members tweak proposed budget, increasing spending on roads and parks

Louisville City Hall
J. Tyler Franklin
Louisville City Hall

A Metro Council committee voted Tuesday to increase spending on public roads, sidewalks and parks in the fiscal year 2023 budget, which starts July 1. A final vote on the $1.3 billion spending plan is expected Thursday night.

The Council’s Budget Committee spent nearly two months holding meetings with department heads, hosting public feedback sessions and debating changes to the budget Mayor Greg Fischer first proposed in late April.

The biggest change to his budget is a roughly $11 million increase in funding for road repaving and sidewalk maintenance, to the tune of $33 million. The vast majority is for roads, with $3 million for sidewalk repairs and $500,000 for new traffic-calming measures.

District 9 Council Member Bill Hollander, a Democrat and chairman of the Budget Committee, said the amended spending plan also sets aside $1 million to start implementing a new alleyway restoration plan, the first significant investment in alley repaving in decades.

“What we have done here is to make some significant investments that we need in the community: roads, alleys, increasing funding for libraries, addressing park concerns, services to Louisville’s homeless community, where we know our issues are serious and growing,” Hollander said.

To pay for this, Hollander said Metro Council slashed funding for some new city employee positions proposed by Fischer. Funding to hire contractors to manage the money Louisville expects to receive from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was also cut, because the rollout has been slower than anticipated.

The full Metro Council will vote Thursday on the amendments approved by the Budget Committee. Since all 26 representatives were included in budget talks, the final budget should not change much, if at all.

In addition to roads and sidewalks, Louisville’s park system also made it to Metro Council’s list of public amenities getting a boost in funding. The additional appropriations are spread out across Jefferson County:

  • $1 million for Jefferson Memorial Forest
  • $350,000 to replace the roof at the Iroquois Amphitheater
  • $300,000 for continued improvements to Charlie Vettiner Park
  • $330,000 for the new Maple Street Park in the West End
  • $100,000 for Nelson Hornbeck Park

If it passes, the proposed budget will allow Goodwill Industries of Kentucky to significantly expand its Another Way program, which offers unhoused residents lunch and a $50 stipend in exchange for a day’s work. Advocates also use the program to connect people experiencing homelessness with more permanent jobs and housing resources.

Fischer had proposed to maintain funding for the Another Way program at around $280,000, but Budget Committee members voted to increase that to $1 million. The amended budget also includes extra money for homeless outreach, including $220,000 for underserved areas outside of the Watterson Expressway.

Recession concerns prompt other amendments

In addition to moving money around, Metro Council members also offer amendments to the budget each year that dictate how certain grants or other pots of money should be spent.

One of the proposed tweaks would require the Louisville Metro Police Department to sign a contract with Churchill Downs for security during Kentucky Derby week, putting the onus for paying officer salaries and overtime for the private event on the racetrack.

Another amendment urges leaders of city departments to delay spending on new programs or positions until December, when the country’s financial outlook might be clearer. The change comes after budget officials told Metro Council last month that a stagnating economy and increasing labor costs could lead to a multi-million dollar budget shortfall in the coming years.

District 19 Metro Council member Anthony Piagentini, who heads the Republican Caucus, said Tuesday he’s concerned the United States may soon enter an economic recession. And he called on Louisville Metro department heads to take the amendment seriously.

“We have very precarious, funky financial times going on right now,” he said. “We don’t know how that’s going to impact us yet. Even in good times — and this is the biggest budget we’ve ever dealt with — discipline is incredibly important.”

Piagentini warned that if the economic forecast continues to be uncertain come December, officials may have to make some budget cuts.

Metro Council did not make any changes Tuesday to LMPD’s budget, which was already slated to get another $25 million to fund salary increases approved last year and expand its use of surveillance technology. The Council did not authorize any additional borrowing to cover its amendments.

The bulk of Louisville Metro’s $1.3 billion budget is made up of the $715 million general fund, which is funded by tax dollars and used to finance the city’s day-to-day operations. The other $343 million is tied up in what’s called the capital budget. That is funded mostly through grants and borrowing for longer-term projects and large expenses, like renovating or expanding city-owned buildings.

Metro Council voted to approve a number of capital projects also proposed by Fischer, including the Louisville Zoo’s planned Kentucky Trails project, Dare to Care’s new distribution center and Waterfront Park’s westward expansion. Some of those capital projects are being funded in the form of matching grants, meaning the organizations will have to come up with a similar amount of money through private donations.

There’s also $1.4 million in the capital budget for a new burn building for the fire department and $6 million to acquire land and design a new police training facility in Jefferson County.

The city’s general fund budget grew by $57 million compared to last year, mainly due to increases in revenue from property and payroll taxes. But budget officials said much of the new funding was eaten up by salary increases for employees and inflation in the prices of goods and services.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.

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