Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has presented the Metro Council with his budget plan for the upcoming 2012-13 fiscal year.
The spending plan does not raise taxes and balances the budget without Metro employee layoffs or furloughs, and gives non-union city workers a 2 percent raise. Fischer was able to leverage private sectors dollars to help fund a $1 million summer jobs program for at-risk youth and $800,000 to purchase land connecting the Louisville Loop to Jefferson Memorial Forest.
Two-thirds of taxpayer dollars go to public safety departments and Fischer touts three police recruit classes in the budget. But one of those closes was held over from the current fiscal year.
The mayor also makes investments in key areas, such as a bond for the Southwest Regional Library, which the city will pay $9.5 million and the Library Foundation will raise $3.5 million.
“Some people don’t have access to online job listings that the rest of us simply take for granted. Some students don’t have the tools they need at home to complete their schoolwork,” Fischer told city lawmakers. “So the library is the great equalizer that makes sure everybody has a chance.”
Metro Government faced a $20 million shortfall in the coming fiscal year, but filled that hole with $13.5 million in projected revenue estimates and selling two downtown parking lots to the Parking Authority of River City for $10.7 million.
Chief Financial Officer Steve Rowland says PARC is also paying the city $3.9 million for two garages which it purchased from the former county government at merger, but for which the payment was never received. Asked how those payments were missed being made over the past eight years and if the city would collect interest on the sale, Rowland said that was being discussed with PARC officials.
Council President Jim King, D-10, says he is concerned because the garages were sold during merger and the city has not received payment until now.
“I’m not sure how the subject came up this year but I know on our city’s books the receivable never recorded when we transferred title to that. So, from an accounting and internal controls standpoint certainly that’s an issue. I’m pleased in terms of the cash flow that’s going to come into our budgets it’s going to certainly help us,” he says.
Among other investments in Fischer’s plan include $500,000 to attract retail business along south Fourth Street, $500,000 to acquire land in west Louisville for economic development and another $500,000 to jump start a fund to help salvage historic properties.
There’s also $125,000 to help foreclose on 100 of the most marketable abandoned properties, which a criteria and list will be developed for over the coming months. The General Assembly previously passed legislation putting the city higher on the list to claim liens on vacant homes.
The mayor shuffled funding for external agencies, art groups and social service agencies, with a total of $4.9 million. But a comparison of the previous fiscal shows arts and cultural organizations received less overall funding than last year.
Critics suggest the mayor’s budget is a band-aid that continues much of the spending policies of the previous administration. Council Republicans have said it lacks much of the ambitious changes Fischer promised during his campaign.
Council members will hold budget hearings over the next month.