Politics

The Louisville Metro Council is expected to finalize the city’s budget by the end of the day.

Mayor Greg Fischer presented his proposed spending plan to the 26-member council last month. Since then, the council’s budget committee has spent weeks examining the proposal, hearing pleas for funding from nonprofits, community activists and department heads alike.

The committee unanimously approved a budget proposal Wednesday evening. That version of the budget will go before the full council for approval at tonight’s regular meeting.

Little pushback is expected.

“By and large, I think is everyone is fairly satisfied,” said councilman Kelly Downard, a Republican who represents District 16.

The council’s budget committee made about $10 million worth of tweaks to Fischer’s initial $822 million proposal. Here’s what’s expected to be included in the final spending plan.

city road

Photo: Jacob Ryan

Infrastructure

The council is dedicated to securing more funding to improve the city’s roads, sidewalks and bridges.

Earlier this year, council members sent the bulk of the yearly budget surplus to help repair roads and sidewalks. Yet many contend much more needs to be invested.

Fischer’s initial budget proposal called for a $23 million allocation for infrastructure repair. Some council members criticized Fischer’s plan, saying it fell short of the need because those funds would be divvied among road, sidewalk and bridge repair needs.

In response, the budget committee voted to spend $5 million more specifically for road repair. More than half of the funds set aside for road repair will be required to be spent on those in the worst condition, according to the approved budget ordinance.

Public Works officials estimate a nearly $112 million road paving deficit. When sidewalks and bridges are included, the deficit balloons to nearly $300 million.

The budget committee also approved a move to add nearly $1.1 million in additional funds specifically to sidewalk repair, which pushes the total Metro area sidewalk repair budget for next year to nearly $4 million.

police

Photo: Jacob Ryan

Public Safety

Fischer has touted his proposed spending plan for its heavy investment in public safety initiatives, like new police cars, fire trucks and surveillance cameras.

The budget committee’s plan bolsters that by adding funds to Louisville Metro police, corrections and suburban fire districts.

The committee is looking to provide an additional $213,000 to the Louisville Metro Police Department for added surveillance technology. This adds to Fischer’s proposal to spend $300,000 on more cameras for police.

Police Chief Steve Conrad is calling for more cameras be installed across the city, and council members are making a bipartisan push for the adoption of an audio-based gunshot tracking system.

The council is asking Conrad to determine the necessity of the tracking system and report back to the council by November. If he decides the equipment could be of use, the funds will pay for the tool, known as ShotSpotter. If not, the entirety of the additional allotment will be spent on cameras, per the committee-approved ordinance.

Conrad told The Courier-Journal earlier this month the gunshot tracking system looks “very promising to address some of the problems that we’re seeing.”

Police reported nearly 200 shootings through the end of May. That’s a nearly 40 percent increase compared with last year, which ended with the highest homicide count here in nearly four decades.

Fischer’s plan calls for $640,000 to go toward police overtime and $12 million to be spent on new police cars, fire trucks and ambulances.

The committee also wants updates at Louisville Metro Corrections. The city’s jail facility is struggling with overcrowding and outdated door-locking systems.

“They need to know whether or not their doors are closed,” said councilwoman Marianne Butler, a Democrat from District 15 and chair of the budget committee.

The committee voted to spend $455,000 in city funds to pay for new door sensors and fire safety equipment for the jail. And the committee is asking that corrections officials present a plan in March 2017 for how they’ll seek to address overcrowding.

Other Additions

The council’s budget committee is looking to invest nearly $1 million in the city parks system.

Maintenance costs account for about $550,000 of the added funds. The rest of the money will be spent on specific projects, like installing running water at the Waverly Dog Park, renovating some bathrooms at Cherokee Park and a building a cricket pitch at Hays Kennedy Park in Prospect.

The committee is also looking to add funding to an array of nonprofits, including some groups that focus on supporting young people whose funding requests were cut or ignored in Fischer’s initial proposal.

Bike_LaneEleanor Hasken

The Cuts

To make nearly $10 million in budget additions, the council’s budget committee had to make nearly $10 million in cuts.

Fischer’s call to spend $500,000 on bicycle infrastructure will be reduced to $350,000, pending final approval by the full council. The committee will also look to reduce spending allocations for a proposed bike share system.

The committee is looking to cut funding for a redevelopment project of Paristown Pointe by $200,000, to a total of $500,000.

Fischer’s proposal to spend nearly $7.5 million on new tax collection systems will be reduced by $2 million under the committee’s plan.

And the committee is looking to reduce Fischer’s proposed overall tree planting budget by $100,000.

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