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Louisville mayor proposes $1.1 billion budget focused on increasing worker pay

Mayor Craig Greenberg and Metro Council President Markus Winkler in council chambers
Roberto Roldan
Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg presented his budget to Metro Council and an audience of city workers Thursday afternoon.

The proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, includes “historic” raises for first responders and other city employees.

Mayor Craig Greenberg presented his $1.1 billion budget proposal to Metro Council Thursday afternoon, saying the city needs to invest in workers while addressing its biggest challenges. His spending plan for the coming year includes raises for first responders, as well as non-union employees. He is also promising new funding for libraries and parks.

Greenberg said he’s spoken to residents in all 26 council districts over the last year, and they share the same set of priorities: public safety, affordable housing and making sure basic city services are being done well.

“The $1.1 billion budget proposal that I’m submitting to you today focuses on meeting those needs, making progress on those priorities and investing in the people who serve our community,” he said. “That’s what the people in Louisville expect us to do.”

Greenberg, who has promised to bolster early childhood education in Louisville, proposed giving $5 million to the nonprofit Thrive by 5 Louisville, which aims to make universal pre-kindergarten a reality within five years. He also announced plans to create and staff a new Department of Transportation.

The mayor is suggesting some cuts in order to fund these new investments.

In recent years, the city used millions of dollars in one-time federal COVID-19 relief to fund everything from affordable housing projects to a new birthing center in the South End, and that funding is running out. However, overall tax revenue is up about 4%, so the size of Louisville's budget remains mostly unchanged compared to last year.

Greenberg said these changes have forced the city to think about what programs make a difference, and which ones only exist because of inertia.

He said his proposed budget represents a “reset” of city government.

“As we think big and make bold, strategic investments, we also have to embrace efficiency, accountability, transparency and the chance to reset,” Greenberg said. “In this budget, let’s reevaluate how we’re executing on our values and on the promises we’ve made to the people of Louisville.”

As city officials put together the proposed budget for next year, Greenberg said he asked each department head to cut 1% of “the least necessary” items in their budgets. He said that meant losing some sponsorships and vacant positions.

Metro Council members will spend the next two months hearing from city officials and residents, then deciding whether to make changes to the proposed spending plan. Last year, the body cut funding set aside for addressing food deserts and downtown revitalization, shifting it to road repaving, deferred maintenance in public parks and homeless outreach.

Following Greenberg’s speech, the council’s party leaders shared their initial thoughts with reporters.

District 7’s Paula McCraney, who heads the Democratic Caucus, said she agreed with the broad priorities Greenberg laid out. But McCraney said she wants to see the details, particularly around hiring new employees and creating a new city department.

“I want to really see how that’s going to fit with the dynamics of infrastructure, public safety and everything else in between that our constituents are mainly concerned about,” she said.

Kevin Kramer, a District 11 Republican, thanked Greenberg for reaching out to Metro Council while his team was putting together his budget proposal.

“It has already begun as a process where the door feels very much open,” he said.

Like McCraney, Kramer said he plans to take a close look at the new investments Greenberg’s proposing to make sure they would be financially sustainable.

Public safety raises

Under Greenberg’s proposed budget, funding for the Louisville Metro Police Department would increase by about 8.5% over the current $222 million.

Last year, Metro Council granted a 2% budget increase for LMPD. Department officials said they needed more funding for recruitment and trust-building efforts. Separately, $100,000 allocated for a residency incentive program remains untouched.

Greenberg said Thursday much of his requested spending would be used to cover raises for rank-and-file officers, as well as LMPD higher-ups. Overall, salaries for LMPD’s sworn staff will increase 22% by 2027 as part of a pay plan the city negotiated with the police union.

The proposed budget for LMPD also sets aside $375,000 for hiring an independent monitor to oversee the city’s reform agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, known as a consent decree.

Other public safety employees could also get raises under the proposed spending plan. Greenberg is asking for funding to begin the process of significantly boosting pay for EMTs and paramedics in the coming years.

Greenberg said Louisville Metro EMS workers currently earn about 30% less than what they could make working for a suburban Fire and EMS District. He said he wants to fill that gap through a series of pay raises, although the details are still being hammered out in union negotiations.

Greenberg said bringing Louisville Metro EMS employees’ wages up to par with that of suburban fire and EMS districts will help improve service for all of Jefferson County.

“We have to prioritize competitive wages and benefits because having the right people in the right jobs, and putting them in a position to do their jobs right, is how we all succeed. it’s how the city succeeds,” Greenberg said.

Both LMPD and Louisville Metro EMS are facing significant staffing shortages. Greenberg is also proposing a 3% raise for all non-union city employees.

Affordable housing and economic development

The proposed budget keeps annual funding for the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund at $15 million. That’s a bigger contribution than the city has made in the past. Louisville has a great need for adding affordable units for residents at the lowest income levels.

Greenberg told Metro Council that he’s proposing to spend $32 million on housing and homelessness, when including funding for homeless service providers, proposed affordable housing developments and the city’s home repairs program.

For the first time in years, the city would also provide direct funding to the Louisville Metro Housing Authority, which oversees public housing in Jefferson County. LMHA is a quasi-governmental organization that gets nearly all of its funding from the federal government.

The proposal allocates $238,000 to LMHA to fund the immediate needs of residents — such as pest control — in Dosker Manor and Avenue Plaza while the agency works on its long-term plan.

There are currently no new funds in the budget for the city’s Community Care Campus, which officials say will one day house 30 families experiencing homelessness. The project will get a slice of a $100 million appropriation from the General Assembly for downtown revitalization.

Part of the Growing Louisville Together plan Greenberg released last year was a commitment to create an economic development authority focused on attracting new businesses to Louisville. The proposed budget includes $5 million in startup funding for that entity, although officials will still need to raise private funds to get it off the ground.

‘Quality of life’ issues

While Louisville has many challenges to address and a variety of projects in the works, Greenberg said he doesn’t want to lose focus on the things that improve resident’s quality of life.

His proposed budget includes $50 million for street paving, sidewalk repairs and traffic calming projects. There’s also $7.1 million for deferred maintenance in public parks.

Other funding items in the proposed budget include:

  • Funding to raise the salaries of “key Public Works employees”
  • Money to staff the Portland and Parkland Libraries, which are expected to reopen this year
  • $1 million for the Waterfront Botanical Gardens’ new Japanese garden
  • $1 million Kentucky College of Art and Design
  • Continued funding for Goodwill’s Another Way program
  • Additional funding for the redesign of the Belvedere
Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.

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