The Metro Council on Thursday evening passed a $551 million operating budget, including Mayor Greg Fischer’s push to augment Louisville’s police force with a focus downtown.
City lawmakers made some important changes to the mayor’s initial spending plan while continuing to bicker over a 2 percent LG&E fee on natural gas.
Ultimately, however, the council passed the operating budget by 19-6 vote in addition to the capital budget, which covers construction and infrastructure projects. The two combine for a $688 million budget overall.
“I am pleased that we have taken the safety and quality of our city into account,” Council President Jim King, D-10, said in a news release. “By addressing public safety, youth programs and capital infrastructure, this budget strengthens all of our community.”
The council trimmed Fischer’s spending plan after compromising on the LG&E fee—the mayor had proposed a 3-percent fee—and leaving a $1.8 million hole in the budget.
Among the cuts were $300,000 to police overtime and $200,000 less for youth programs. The city’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program will be also be slashed by $100,000.
Some council members expressed concern about the $300,000 in funding removed for Family Health Centers, which is a non-profit group that includes a network of seven locations across the city.
According to a statement provided to council members, Family Health Centers said it is “Louisville’s largest safety net provider” and has provided $37 million in care over the past three years.
“This is not the year to cut funding,” the statement said.
The Fischer administration argued that its 2014-15 spending plan needed to put an emphasis on public safety after a mob of teenagers roamed through Waterfront Park and downtown Louisville, committing a number of assaults and other violent crimes.
As a result, this budget will lead to the hiring of almost 100 new Metro Police officers and create a Real Time Crime Center, which will allow analysts to monitor a number of surveillance cameras throughout the city in real time.
City officials in the mayor’s office and council said the officers and center are needed to give residents and visitors an added sense of security.
“While I had many reservations about the initial budget proposal, our work throughout the hearing process and with colleagues on the Metro Council have helped to make sure that the needs of all parts of the Metro are addressed,” said Republican Caucus Chair Kevin Kramer. “While I continue to oppose the new LG&E franchise fee, the fact that we are finally adding more police on the streets addresses a need that I have supported for many years.”
Of those nearly 100 new police officers, about 72 will replace those who are retiring. Among the other two dozen additional officers, most will patrol downtown while about nine will be assigned to divisions in west Louisville.
The mayor’s office estimates this will put Louisville’s police force at about 1,260 officers on average.
“I appreciate the council’s collaborative approach to the new budget,” Fischer said in a statement. “For the past four years, we’ve worked to create a budget that is both realistic and that reflects the values of our community including important investments this year in public safety, youth development, public infrastructure and neighborhoods. Together, we have moved Louisville forward.”
Council members Ken Fleming, Marilyn Parker, Jerry Miller, Stuart Benson, Robin Engel and Brent Ackerson voted against the operating budget. Fleming and Ackerson were the only council members to vote against the capital part of the budget.
Councilman David Tandy had an excused absence from Thursday’s meeting.