Union Leaders Weigh-In on City Shortfall

by admin on March 24, 2011

Many Louisville union leaders say Mayor Greg Fischer should consider raising taxes and cutting Metro Council discretionary spending to overcome a $22 million deficit in the next city budget.

In February, Fischer asked Metro employees for a list of spending priorities so he could have more options to fill the shortfall. the mayor has not said how he will cut the budget, but former Mayor Jerry Abramson laid off 119 Metro employees to fill a smaller gap two years ago.

Teamsters Secretary-Treasurer Todd Thomason praises Fischer for being more inclusive than his predecessor in drafting a budget. But he says citizens and council members–not just Metro employees–may have to do more.

“We’ve always said that we’ll do what we can as long as everybody else shares in the pain with us. And I think other unions have to feel the pain—and they have—and I think the citizens have got to feel the pain as well,” he says. “And if it means raising taxes it means raising taxes. But we’ve got services that we got to provide and if they’re not provided we’re the first ones to hear about it.”

A spokesman for Fischer said there is “no mood to raises taxes”.

Other union leaders have suggested that the administration needs to take a look at how city legislators are using tax dollars.

Last week, a council panel discussed ways to improve the oversight of grant money after it was revealed that Councilwoman Judy Green was charged with violating council rules by rerouting Neighborhood Development Funds through a non-profit organization.

In response, Council President Jim King ordered an audit of all grants over $5,000 from the last two fiscal years. According to The Courier-Journal, only about 10 percent of the 145 neighborhood fund grants handed out by the council since 2009 have had reports filed with the city’s budget office.

Firefighters union president Craig Willman says the city can find a better way to manage those funds before layoffs, raising taxes or asking unions to take another cut.

“The projects through Metro Council members getting money has no accountability or oversight in those reports that were sent back on how they spent that money,” he says.

The mayor’s proposal for the next budget is due to the council in late May.

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