After a month of hearings, the Louisville Metro Council is set to vote on Mayor Greg Fischer’s 2014-15 budget proposal this evening.
Of all the items in Fischer’s $553-million spending plan, one of the most notable was a proposed 3 percent fee on natural gas, a revenue-producer that would among other things pay for more police downtown.
The proposed fee would’ve generated $4.8 million in revenue, but the council balked, passing a 2 percent fee amid a community backlash over higher utility bills.
That fiscal tug-of-war left a $1.8-million hole in the Fischer administration’s budget plan.
Here are four other highlights from the Budget Committee’s special meeting this week.
Cuts: Council members have proposed to trim less than .01 percent of Fischer’s overall proposed budget due to the amended LG&E fee.
The largest cuts include $425,000 in Metro Police mostly in officer overtime. Another $200,000 is being reduced from what the mayor originally slated for youth programs.
Other cuts include $323,000 from the Public Health and Wellness that was earmarked for local health centers, and $100,000 less for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
External Agencies: The Budget Committee did more than just slash. City lawmakers increased funding for arts and social service organizations such as The Healing Place by just over $350,000.
$31 Million: That’s how much the council is proposing to borrow in the form of bonds, much of which will go to capital projects. The Council intends to add $1 million to Fischer’s $30-million request.
The most expensive is a $500,000 bond for the Louisville Zoo’s elephant exhibit.
Council Republicans blasted Fischer’s capital budget for the lack of any projects in their districts.
A GOP spokesman told WFPL that the caucus is pleased with some of the new adjustments, which include $300,000 South Pointe Commons, $100,000 for Jefferson Memorial Forest, and $150,000 for the Sun Valley community center.
Louisville Public Defender’s Office: An unexpected cost was tacked on to Fischer’s initial $3.1 million budget for “other statutory obligations” after the city appeared to short-change the Louisville public defender’s office.
In a May 27 letter, Kentucky Public Advocate Edward Monahan told Chief Public Defender Daniel T. Goyette their local workload was raising “grave concerns” under the state’s code of conduct.
Monahan said Fischer’s original allocation fell short of the local defender’s “pressing needs.”
“The amount of funding provided by Louisville Metro Government must be increased as I have indicated above to meet its legal obligation under applicable statutes to ensure adequate resources for the competent delivery of legal services for the indigent citizens of Jefferson County,” Monahan said.
The council’s budget panel this week allotted an additional $667,000 towards the public defender’s office.
Here is Monahan’s letter:
Goyette blamed the lack of funding on bad timing, saying the state public advocate’s letter hadn’t been received by the time Fischer’s budget proposal was submitted to the council.
“After the letter was received, I contacted the Louisville Metro Office of Management and Budget to provide the precise amount of state resources provided for,” said Goyette. “At that point, it was necessary to correct the amount included in the proposed budget that had been submitted by the mayor to the council.
“My understanding is that this was accomplished at the Metro Council Budget Committee meeting last night, and given our needs and circumstances I am very appreciative of the assistance and support we received from the mayor’s office and the Metro Council.”