Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer incorrectly stated the budget for the city’s public safety agencies was $150 million when appropriations for those departments are twice that much, but the mayor’s office says it was a honest misunderstanding.
During an interview with WFPL News Wednesday, the mayor discussed his first budget proposal. Fischer has said in the past if given the choice between funding arts groups and public safety, the administration would choose the latter.
When asked if it was fair to compare the $500,000 given to the arts with hundreds of millions given to public safety, Fischer said figures presented by WFPL News Director Gabe Bullard were incorrect and closer to the $150,000 million mark.
Mayoral spokesman Chris Poynter says the mayor was talking about the money allocated to “public protection” agencies such as Metro Corrections, Fire and EMS, which he says does not include Metro Police.
“If you’re just talking about public protection—Fire, EMS, management, corrections—that’s $155 million in the city budget,” he says. “The Metro Police department budget is $148 million, so when you total those two it’s about $303 million.”
The Metro Government website shows public safety takes up the bulk of tax dollars with a budget well over $300 million. It includes all of the entire emergency services, such as police, animal services and youth detention taking up close to 60 percent of city spending.
During last year’s Democratic primary, opponents criticized Fischer for not knowing the size of the city budget. But past budget proposals do outline “public protection” funding as under the overall public safety budget and separate from police appropriations.
The mayor’s office is standing by Fischer’s statement, saying he was answering the question about “public protection” agencies as opposed to the city’s entire public safety system.
“Metro Corrections, youth detention services, criminal justice commission and Metro Animal Services—those are all under the way we organize city government public protection,” says Poynter. “The police department is a separate department. So it’s a matter of public protection capital P or public protection lowercase p.”