The Louisville Metro Council heard from over three-dozen organizations that were cut in Mayor Greg Fischer’s proposed budget.
Speakers representing ministerial foundations, arts groups and other non-profit agencies implored city lawmakers to add needed funding for their programs, which provide various charitable services.
Among those who presented their case before the council was Charles King, who is president and CEO of Project One President, which a summer jobs program for Louisville youth.
Joined by dozens of teenage participants, King says despite passing accredited reviews and receiving $80,000 from the city last year, Fischer’s proposal allocated nothing for the group in his new spending plan.
“The zero funding could not come at a worse time,” he says. “Violence is rampant in our communities, and summer jobs represent violence reduction and public safety. Teen unemployment is at 24 percent and in impoverished communities it’s nearing 50 percent.”
Fischer points out the city has Summer Works, which seeks to employ 900 area students aged 18-21 years old. But Project Once supporters argue it is aimed at younger teens, and offers unique job training and employment for local youth.
“We know a pie is just so large and you get so many slices. But to cut someone out completely who received $80,000 last year is a little far fetched with these kids needing summer jobs,” says Councilwoman Mary Woolridge, D-3, who urged the council to restore funding.
The mayor’s budget did increase funding for community ministries by 21 percent to just over $1 million, but some groups complained they received zero funding despite a $3.3 million surplus and $5 million in new spending.
Recommendations for external agency funding come from a group of three citizen panels that review applications. Leaders with arts and homeless groups have criticized the process, citing the fact residents on those committees sign agreements to keep the deliberation confidential.
Fischer told WFPL all of the groups seeking funds do important work and he wishes the city had unlimited dollars to support them.
“We certainly understand the weight of the situation on the city,” says Arthur Cox, executive director of the St. George’s Community Center, which provides food pantry services in the Park Hill, Parkland and California neighborhoods. “But we believe that we are needed in our community. We believe that we are a lifeboat in our community. We live in a food desert, and this program is important.”
The council has generally added funding and is expected to put in anywhere from $200,000 to $500,000 towards external agencies