Louisville Metro Council President Jim King, D-10, has sent Mayor Greg Fischer several recommendations to fill looming budget shortfalls over the next two fiscal years.
The six-page letter was drafted after King met with leaders of the Budget Committee and other council members over the past few weeks.
Metro Government faces a potential $42 million deficit over the next two years with $12 million that must be cut over the next six months and a projected $30 million deficit next fiscal year.
“These are our recommendations to help the Mayor through the coming months as we work together to resolve the budget deficit facing this city in the short term and in the coming fiscal year,” King said in a statement.
Suggestions include cancelling or amending the contract with Greater Louisville Inc., rerouting funds from the Downtown Development Corporation and merging the fire and EMS departments.
Budget Committee Vice Chairman Kelly Downard, R-16, says core functions won’t be affected under the council’s recommendations, but President King has made bold suggestions after meeting with council members.
“There are some sacred cows involved in this list as well as the fact there was nothing taken off the table…I think I stand prepared to work with the mayor to resolve the issues. Our list—as well as some on of his list—has items on there that are going to be difficult and painful for some. But that’s the way it is, we can’t afford to do everything and if we want to think we can the we’re just whistling Dixie,” he says.
Among the more creative ideas to raise revenue is the suggestion to begin collecting occupational taxes from performers at the KFC Yum Center. But Arena Authority officials have stood against imposing a tax on entertainers in the past and have argued it could make the Yum Center less attractive to local and national acts
Downard says the additional fee at the downtown arena shouldn’t detour prominent acts from coming to the city.
“If the person who sells hotdogs down there has to pay that why does the guy who performs not have to? It is not abnormal, it is not unusual for performers or anybody else who goes from city to city or taxing district to taxing district to keep track of the time they spent there and the money they made from different places,” he says.
Other cost savings measures include a suggestion that Fischer postpone an $850,000 project to build a pedestrian bridge connecting 6th Street to the Muhammad Ali Center in downtown. King’s letter recommends those funds be divided up and dedicated to small projects highlighted by the council.
“An $850,000 pedway at a time when we’re in a big budget crunch is not necessarily prudent,” says Budget Committee Chairwoman Marianne Butler, D-15. “We need to look at all of the capitol infrastructure projects that are out there that have yet to be completed and see if there are ones that can be done with bond money that will have a greater impact on neighborhoods.”
Mayoral spokesman Chris Poynter says the council made good suggestions to consider overall and the administration has forward them to department heads, but he pointed out that funds for the Ali Center bridge were earmarked 10 years ago from the Marriott bond and has nothing to do with the current budget.
During the State of the City address, Fischer warned that everything except essential services is on the table and city officials will have to make tough choices to balance the budget.
“We have been in a budget cutting mode for the past five years now and we have made all the easy one-time cuts that the public won’t notice,” says Poynter. “It’s going to be very difficult to make these new round of cuts without on some level impacting services. What that means exactly to the day-to-da citizen remains to be seen as we look through all these suggestions.”