Politics

A surplus spending plan backed by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is being held up in a Louisville Metro Council committee.

The proposal is sponsored by council budget committee chair Marianne Butler, a Democrat who represents District 15. It would scatter the nearly $10 million projected surplus across a handful of social programs and capital infrastructure improvements.

In an interview last week, Butler said she didn’t expect any opposition to the plan, saying crafting the proposal had been a joint, bipartisan effort.

But fellow Democrat Brent Ackerson of District 26 is pushing back.

Ackerson is sponsoring a spending plan that would send the entire surplus toward infrastructure repair, specifically for streets and sidewalks.

The city is facing a nearly $112 million road paving deficit, according to data from Metro Public Works. Ackerson said continuing to neglect road repairs would hurt the city’s ability to spend and borrow money in the future.

Ackerson’s pushback led the committee to adjourn before voting on either proposal.

“It was a good day for the people of Louisville because we talked seriously about the spending of $10 million,” he said.

Ackerson said questions raised by council members during the discussion derailed a plan to fast-track Butler’s spending proposal.

“We don’t need to discuss this stuff on the fly,” he said.

Ackerson is taking issue with how and why certain programs were chosen to receive surplus funding allocations.

For instance, drug treatment facility The Healing Place and West Louisville economic development nonprofit OneWest are set to receive, collectively, about $750,000 from the surplus.

Ackerson said those programs, like any other program that gets fiscal support from Louisville Metro, should be vetted in the regular annual budget process.

“They have to line up with everybody else,” he said.

Ackerson said if those programs don’t receive funding from the surplus, they’ll still be a high priority in June, when the regular budget process ensues.

Councilwoman Marilyn Parker, a Republican who represents District 18, said the city’s two most-pressing issues are drug addiction and bad roads. She said the committee should keep Butler’s proposed allocation of $500,000 for The Healing Place and put the rest toward infrastructure repair.

Parker said giving the surplus funds to a handful of other groups, including OneWest, SummerWorks and various city agencies, turns the found money into a “goody grab bag.”

“I really would like to see the two most important issues be focused on,” she said. “Everything else is secondary.”

Ackerson said he’s willing to come to a compromise of sorts. Although he’s proposing spending nearly all of the $10 million surplus on road repair, he said he’d accept less, as long as it’s more than the $3.6 million being proposed in Butler’s proposal.

Butler said putting more than her proposed $3.6 million into road repair would be inefficient. She said the $3.6 million allocation for roads would put the city’s Public Works department at its paving capacity. Anything more would just be carried over to another year, she said.

Butler said as the Ohio River Bridges Project continues, “the contractors just aren’t able to pave as quickly as we want.”

Councilman Kevin Kramer, a Republican who represents District 11 and chair of the Republican caucus, said he’s hopeful his colleagues will take the next two weeks to thoroughly discuss both proposals.

Butler is looking for a vote on her proposal before allowing Ackerson’s to be discussed in committee, which could mean the funds would be allocated before another plan could be considered.

Kramer said he hopes committee members will get the chance to discuss both proposals during the next council meeting in two weeks.

“Go back and forth and talk about how we can get to an ordinance that actually makes the most sense,” he said. “And maybe even combine the two and come out with an ordinance that the entire budget committee can support.”

But doing that, Kramer noted, will be a challenge.

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.