Members of the Louisville Metro Council have over $2.8 million in unused Capital Infrastructure Funds from previous fiscal years that have yet to be designated for specific projects.
Each year council members receive $100,000 to be used for district building projects such as sidewalk replacement, street paving and tree stump removal. Any remaining funds are rolled over, which has accumulated to over $300,000 for some members.
The bulk of the $2.8 million are held by council Democrats, who spend their capital funds individually and at their own discretion. The highest unallocated fund is Councilwoman Mary Woolride, D-3, who is holding onto $389,972 as of May 1.
With a $22 million budget deficit looming, it is unclear what the plans for those public funds are or if the money will be used at all.
“The biggest question is whether or not there are plans for that money. If that money has been saved so that it can be used to pave a major street or construction of a library, then I would see no reason to be concerned,” says Republican Caucus Director Steve Haag. “If the money is just planning to sit there and just collect for infinity then I would say that would be something people would be concerned considering the different issues that we have due to the budget.”
Unlike their Democratic counterparts, GOP members pool their money and allocate the funds for regional and district projects as a group. Many council Republicans believe the unused funds should either be earmarked in specific departments or to help fill Metro Government’s $22 million shortfall and prevent jobs and services from being cut.
However, Democrats argue the funds are being held in their accounts to pay for expensive district projects that the mayor’s office and other city departments have previously overlooked.
Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, says the $360,899 in her account is being saved for redevelopment because she doesn’t trust city departments to put her district priorities first.
“I had money earmarked for a paint program in a low income area. When I was ready to get the money, the money was gone,” she says. “I keep the money in my account until it is shovel ready. When they’re ready to start then I transfer it over to the department because I learned a valuable lesson by moving it over there and letting it sit.”
A Democratic caucus spokesperson said a handful of members have said unofficially what their capital funds would be used for, but other members were unavailable for comment when asked about their plans.
Because council rules allow members to transfer capital project dollars to their less restrictive Neighborhood Development Funds, which have come under intense scrutiny as of late, there is growing concern about the use of taxpayer dollars by the council.
Behind Woolrigde and Shanklin, the top leftover accounts are Councilwoman Madonna Flood, D-24, at $353,394, Councilman Bob Henderson, D-14, at $230,116, Councilwoman Judy Green, D-1, at $222,951 and Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton at $201,289.