Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer will meet with union leaders later today to discuss the grim outlook on future city budgets before introducing his first spending plan Thursday.
The city is facing a $22.5 million shortfall for the 2011-2012 fiscal year and the mayor’s spending plan is expected to include a number of cost-cutting measures—including firing Metro employees—to balance the deficit.
Mayoral spokesperson Chris Poynter says the administration was able to close the gap through a number of one-time measures, including $3.5 million seized by police during drug raids that was sitting in a savings account.
The meeting with union leaders Wednesday is less about detailing this year’s budget proposal and will instead outline serious changes to Metro Government in the future.
“We’re meeting with the unions to say we face a major problem with our budget cycle overall,” Poynter says. “We don’t have enough revenue to cover all our expenses and so we need unions to begin thinking now about how they’re going to strongly participate.”
In the past few months, union leaders have made a number of suggestions to balance this year’s budget, including raising local taxes and cutting Metro Council discretionary funds.
“Discretionary spending would be one of the first places I would be looking,” says American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees spokesperson Greg Frazier. “I was reading somewhere where there was is still $2 million in construction money sitting around. Unspent money that’s maybe for projects that could be put off until next year would be one of the first places I would start…We’re all in general agreement that discretionary spending should be cut as much as possible before we start looking at putting people out on the street.”
Praising Fischer for being open to discussion, Frazier says union leaders expect the mayor will give them a preview of the budget announcement and what sacrifices they’re being asked to make now and in the future.
Furloughs for unionized city employees are off the table due to a successful grievance filed by workers last year. Two years ago, union leaders argued furlough days imposed by former Mayor Jerry Abramson violated their contracts and an arbitration firm ruled in their favor, forcing Metro Government to repay workers close to $1 million.
That puts more pressure on firing Metro employees and the mayor’s office acknowledged workers will be affected by this year’s budget cuts. The Fischer administration has already submitted a reorganization plan that would save the city more than $1 million by cutting a quarter of its 81 business managers.
Poynter says there will be layoffs in this year’s budget plan, but Fischer is sending a warning to employees, council members and external agencies that Metro Government will be going through fundamental changes in the years to come.
“We’re getting to the point where in the budget is do we fund arts groups and do we provide neighborhood council discretionary funds or do we hire police officers,” he says. “That’s the point we’ll be at next year with the budget.”