Council Approves Budget, Looks To Future

by Gabe Bullard

The Louisville Metro Council approved operating and capital budgets for the next fiscal year Thursday.

Several councilmembers praised this year’s process of revising and amending the mayor’s initial budget proposal. With minimal public disagreement, the body increased funding for external arts and social service agencies by about one million dollars and revised revenue streams and predictions to anticipate a 3 million dollar surplus.

But next year’s budget process may be different. It will be the first spending plan crafted by a new mayor, and Budget Committee chair Jim King says the council will likely be a stronger partner in drafting the initial proposal.

“My guess is, the next mayor, regardless of which one it is, will probably meet with caucus and council leadership prior to submitting the budget and get some input from us so maybe it will get to the point where amendments aren’t necessary, or they’re the exception and not the rule,” he says.

“This mayor did a good job of carrying us through a hump,” says committee vice chair Kelly Downard. “I didn’t agree with him at all times, as you well know, but he carried us through the hump of starting up and saying, ‘Where are we supposed to be?’ And now it’s time to move on, and I think the next mayor is going to have a lot of cooperation from the council.”

For the eight time in a row, Louisville Metro Councilman Doug Hawkins voted against the plan. He was the sole vote against the operating and capital budgets, which both passed 24-1.

Hawkins has voted against every budget since the one proposed for the 2004 fiscal year, which was the first full fiscal year after merger.¬†Hawkins says he doesn’t trust Mayor Jerry Abramson’s administration to properly spend tax dollars. But this year, his vote was against a budget that the council amended to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to arts and social services agencies.

“The work my colleagues did was very good work, and I appreciate that, and it is no disrespect to what they’ve done,” he says. “But I think when you look at the big picture, with the way this mayor handles the money, I just can’t sign off on it.”

Hawkins says the council’s revisions are only a small percentage of the entire budget. He is not on the council’s Budget Committee, but says he attended “two or three” of the multiple budget hearings this year, including the public hearings and Public Works and Safety meetings. He says he will support future budgets if he trusts the administration authoring them.