Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer

Politics
2:00 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

Kentucky Lawmakers to Discuss Local Option Sales Tax

Credit File photo

A committee in the Kentucky General Assembly will discuss the idea of giving local voters an option to raise their sales tax to fund special projects.

State lawmakers tell WFPL they are keeping an open mind, but some cite a recent study showing Louisville is already a heavily tax-burdened city.

For the past year, Mayor Greg Fischer has been lobbying the General Assembly and others to support the idea.

The specifics haven't been unveiled, but in general a local option would allow voters to approve a temporary 1-percent tax increase that would go towards specific efforts such as new infrastructure.

A report conducted by the University of Louisville found such as tool could generate up to $138 million in revenue for the city.

Democratic state Rep. Steve Riggs of Louisville is co-chair of the Interim Committee on Local Government, which is holding a hearing to discuss the proposal on Wednesday.

He says a temporary tax is an intriguing idea, but it is important legislators learn more about the proposal.

"I'm leaning for it because I see so many other communities around the nation that do it and I love letting the citizen decide and giving the citizen the liberty to determine where there money goes without sending it to Frankfort first and then it goes somewhere else. I love that part of it,” he says.

Read more
Politics
9:59 am
Tue September 10, 2013

Study: Local Option Sales Tax Would Generate Significant Revenue, but Burden Louisville Taxpayers

A 1-percent local option sales tax would generate $138 million in revenue for the city, but add to an already heavy burden for Louisville taxpayers.

That's according to a study by a University of Louisville research center released Tuesday.

The report conducted by the Urban Studies Institute was paid for with discretionary funds from Republican Councilman Ken Fleming's office earlier this year.

It is the first official examination of the idea, which is being spearheaded by Mayor Greg Fischer as a way to create additional revenue for Metro Government.

Among the chief findings in the 40-page report is that Louisville has the highest income tax rate among its 14 peer cities at about $7,720 for hypothetical family of four with two income earners. The city also has the third-highest overall tax burden when compared to competitor cities property, income and sales taxes combined. 

Fischer has said the local option isn't a tax increase but rather emphasized it's choice for local voters to invest into the community and fund key capital projects. But according to the study, introducing a 1-percent sales tax would bump Louisville up to the second-highest overall taxed city among its peers.

Fleming says he sponsored the study to examine the economic impact and better inform the public, adding its shows the benefits and pitfalls of the plan.

"This study does a really good job at taking an objective point of view and looking at data that provides both the pros and cons of what we're trying to do," he says. "We should have had this debate last year or two years ago, and we need to have it now to understand where we are economically."

Among the benefits of a local option outlined in the study is it help diversifies the city's revenue stream, which is limited to occupational, insurance premiums and property taxes.

The study says due to Louisville's position as a retail shopping and entertainment center a local option could shift a sizeable percentage of the sales taxes those who live outside the county. The effect could mean residents would enjoy economic windfalls for infrastructure or other capitol projects at a reduced tax price.

And depending on the economy, it estimates anywhere from $140 million to $160 million in projected revenue, which is nearly twice as much as the $95 million a year that Fischer's office estimated.

Read more
Environment
10:30 am
Mon August 26, 2013

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer on the Air District's Audit: 'We'll Take Any Action' Necessary

File photo

Last week, several members of the Air Pollution Control District Board expressed their support for the district’s staff in the wake of a state audit that found serious flaws with the city’s air monitoring program. But in a WFPL News special, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer didn’t echo that unequivocal support.

Read more
Local News
6:00 am
Thu August 22, 2013

Mayor Greg Fischer on WFPL Thursday for a News Special

Mayor Greg Fischer
Credit Gabe Bullard/WFPL

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer will join WFPL on Thursday for an hour-long news special.

Fischer will be asked about possible changes to the Metro Council members' discretionary spending, the Vision Louisville project, professional sports and more. He'll also discuss his bid for re-election in 2014.

Read more
Local News
5:04 pm
Wed August 7, 2013

Fischer Orders Review of Air Pollution Control District Following Audit of Monitoring Program

Louisville Air Pollution Control District officials are awaiting the EPA’s response to a state audit that found serious problems with the district’s program for monitoring soot pollution.

The audit by the Kentucky Division for Air Quality found flaws with the district’s handling of data and other procedures going back as many as 10 years.  

The findings could potentially affect the Louisville area’s compliance with federal air quality standards.

District spokesman Tom Nord said the agency had no immediate public comment on the audit this afternoon.  

Read more
Politics
10:49 pm
Mon July 22, 2013

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer Subpoena Denied in Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin Removal Trial

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer will not have to testify at embattled Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin's removal trial.

Attorney Aubrey Williams had sought to subpoena the mayor so Fischer would explain the administration’s reasoning for terminating the upholstery program for ex-offenders that Shanklin continued to fund.

Metro Corrections halted the program in November 2011 in a letter to the program's instructor after learning few former inmates attend.

But an affidavit signed by Fischer says he did not have any knowledge about the program until after the decision was made. The court accepted the mayor's explanation that he leaves the "day-to-day" operations of departments to directors.

Williams told the court it is hard to believe Fischer was "oblivious" to the controversy and there is no question he was directly involved with shuttering the program.

"The mayor knew very well what was going on here. And for the mayor to not be willing to come and explain and talk about what he knew, why he did what he did, I think is just not right. It certainly isn’t fair to my client," he says.

Read more
Politics
7:55 am
Mon July 22, 2013

Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin's Attorney Outlines Defense Strategy

Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2,.
Credit Louisville Metro Council

A year after an ethics complaint was filed, the Louisville Metro Council Court will hear the case to remove Democrat Barbara Shanklin from office this week.

Shanklin faces charges that she deliberately violated the the city's code of ethics, which were brought by a 5-member Charging Committee in March.

The councilwoman's ethics troubles began when news reports pertaining to a $30,000 taxpayer-funded upholstery program for ex-offenders began to surface last year.

City records revealed few former inmates attended the program, which was run through the Metro Corrections department. But sign-up sheets did show Shanklin and many of her relatives did participate.

Attorney Aubrey Williams is representing Shanklin. He says Shanklin and her family had a right to participate in the program because they were residents, but points out no one received any undue advantage or public dollars as a result.

"Barbara Shanklin has not received one dime personally nor has any member of her family received any money that they should not have received, if any, in those programs," he says.

Read more
Politics
6:29 pm
Thu July 18, 2013

Council Court Delays Ruling on Mayor Greg Fischer Subpoena in Barbara Shanklin Removal Trial

The chair of the Metro Council Court is holding off on deciding whether Mayor Greg Fischer will be compelled to testify at the removal trial of embattled Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin next week.

The councilwoman faces removal from her District 2 council seat for ethics violations that the commission ruled she committed. Shanklin has denied any wrongdoing, but a Charging Committee of five fellow city lawmakers filed a petition seeking her removal from office.

At issue are allegations that Shanklin misused taxpayers money to benefit her friends and family through an upholstery program for ex-offenders. She also faces charges that she controlled public funds allocated to the Petersburg-Newburg Improvement Association given she was a board member who signed for the group's checks.

In a series of rulings, Council President Jim King, who chairs the court, granted subpoenas for witnesses including Shanklin's relatives, city officials and two members of the Metro Ethics Commission.

Attorney Aubrey Williams, who is representing Shanklin, blasted King and Jefferson County Mike O'Connell at a conference earlier this week over what he says have been unfair proceedings.

The subpoenas of nine witnesses on Williams's list were denied due to a lack of issuances, but King did not deny the one for Fischer. Rather, he is questing Shanklin's legal counsel provide more information on why the mayor is being summoned.

"The court reserves ruling on the request for issuance of subpoenas for (Greg Fischer) until (Williams) satisfies the court of the necessity of such subpoenas," King said in the ruling.

Read more
Politics
2:39 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer Called to Testify in Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin's Removal Trial

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer
Credit File photo

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is among a number of city officials being called to testify in the removal trial of Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, which is scheduled to begin next week.

Earlier this year, the Metro Ethics Commission ruled unanimously that Shanklin violated various ethics rules, including funding an ex-offenders upholstery program benefiting her friends and family.

The panel recommended the councilwoman’s ouster from office, and a Charging Committee of five council members filed a petition to begin removal proceedings.

Before the ethics complaints were filed the Fischer administration shut down that upholstery program in Shanklin's district, citing concerns about the lack  former inmates participating

Shanklin is being represented by attorney Aubrey Williams, who refused to comment for this story on why Fischer is being asked to testify before the Metro Council Court.

But in court documents provided to the council clerk, Williams says the mayor is expected to testify about "various matters relating to any laws, policies and procedures" that caused Fischer to halt the program.

Attorney David Tachau is the prosecutor in the removal trial. He says it’s unclear why Shanklin wants the mayor to be called as a witness other than an attempt to throw irrelevant issues into the case.

Read more
Politics
6:39 pm
Wed July 10, 2013

City Reaches Contract Deal with Police, Firefighters Union

Louisville Metro Government has reached a five-year deal with the city’s police and fire unions that provides raises while making significant changes to the overtime and health plan systems.

The contracts with the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Firefighters were recently ratified by their membership, and both contracts will be presented to the Metro Council next week for consideration.

Mayor Greg Fischer says the new labor agreement helps the city align projected revenues with rising costs.

"I applaud both sides for taking a fair and affordable approach to these contracts," he says. "Our employees are among the best in class and we are on a constant journey of improvement. These new contracts take a big step toward matching revenue growth with personnel costs."

Read more

Pages