Economy

With less than two months to pass a final budget, Metro Council members will commence public hearings this week for perspectives from inside and outside government on where cuts should be made or avoided.

The budget will be more than $25 million short of the funding government agencies need to maintain current staffing and service levels in the next fiscal year, which starts on July 1. Mayor Greg Fischer, who presented his cuts proposal to the council in late April, largely blames rising state pension costs for the shortfall, although employee health care costs are also going up.

Bill Hollander (D-9), who chairs the budget committee, said it is important for citizens and legislators to think not just of the coming year but of the future as well.

“We know that this is really not the end of our issue, we know that pensions will go up another 12 percent next year, and the year after that and the year after that,” he recently told WFPL. “We need to be thinking about the future, because this is probably not the end of the cuts.”

In March, the council voted down a compromise tax plan that could have allowed for cutting less from the city’s budget. Some council members recently expressed surprise that the mayor’s cuts didn’t reach the $35 million level he had originally warned were necessary. His staff explained that changed revenue forecasts, employee turnover and raising employees’ insurance premiums helped decrease the amount of cuts.

But Fischer acknowledged that pension costs could increase longer than previously anticipated, since the Kentucky Retirement System board may change assumptions based on the prediction that people will live longer.

The first opportunity for members of the public to address the council’s budget committee will be on Tuesday, May 7, at 6:15 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall. Additional sessions for public comment will take place on Thursday, May 16, at 6 p.m and Monday, May 20, at 6 p.m.

Representatives from many government departments and agencies will also address the committee. Some notable hearings with city officials include:

Parks & Recreation on Wednesday, May 8 at 4:30 p.m. Proposed reduction: $1.05 million.
Louisville Forward (including Economic Development, Develop Louisville, Codes & Regulations and the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund) on Monday, May 13 at 3:30 p.m. Proposed reduction: $3.14 million. Funding for LAHTF will drop to $5 million, down from $12 million.
Louisville Fire on Tuesday, May 21 at 5:30 p.m. Proposed reduction: $1.7 million.
Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods on Wednesday, May 22 at 4:30 p.m. Proposed reduction: $446,300.
Louisville Free Public Library on Wednesday, May 29 at 3:30 p.m. Proposed reduction: $2.26 million.
Public Works and Assets on Wednesday, May 29 at 4:30 p.m. Proposed reduction: $1.21 million.
Emergency Services on Thursday, May 30 at 3:30 p.m. Proposed reduction: $1.27 million.
Louisville Metro Police Department on Thursday, May 30 at 4:30 p.m. Proposed reduction: $5.91 million.
Public Health and Wellness on Monday, June 10 at 3:45 p.m. Proposed reduction: $1.7 million.

The Metro Council will vote to pass a final budget on Tuesday, June 25. The full hearing schedule is available here.

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.