Local News

Budget Committee Compromises On Firefighter Settlement Plan

by Gabe Bullard

The Louisville Metro Council Budget Committee has approved a plan for financing payments to underpaid firefighters.

The committee spent weeks debating how to make about $35 million in payments in a settlement with the firefighters over miscalculated overtime.  The body was split between issuing bonds to finance the payments and tapping the city’s rainy day fund. Tapping the fund could hurt the city’s credit rating, while bonds accrue interest.

The committee Wednesday night voted to compromise and pay ten million dollars out of reserves while bonding the rest. Vice-chair Kelly Downard says he thinks the measure will pass the full council Thursday.

“It was a unanimous vote and I think that sends to the rest of the council a word that says, ‘We’ve looked at this hard the way you asked us to for about a month and a half and we came up with several scenarios and we’ve chosen one that we’ve agreed on unanimously and I think they’ll go along with that,” he says.

The city’s reserve fund has about $65 million. Downard says he now hopes to work on a plan for restoring the funds that will be spent.

Local News

Budget Committee Reviews Firefighter Settlement Payment Plans

by Gabe Bullard

The Budget Committee of the Louisville Metro Council continued its discussion of how to finance the final $30 million in a settlement with underpaid firefighters. The committee Tuesday tabled an ordinance that would have issued bonds to make the payments.

The ordinance would have approved a ten year bond issue. Several committee members said they were uncomfortable adding several million dollars of debt to future city budgets, especially if the national economy doesn’t improve. They asked whether part of the city’s $65 million cash reserve could be used either as a down payment of sorts, or to make bond payments if necessary.

Vice-chair Kelly Downard says he doesn’t want to approve the use of bonds without a clear way to pay them back.

“What I want to see is the plan,” he says. “We have often times done things like this without a plan. If there is a plan and it makes sense, then I’d be in favor of it. If not, I’m just saying, ‘On the face of it, it causes me great concern.'”

The committee will take up the issue again in two weeks.

Local News

Downard Reacts To Neighborhood Resignations

A Louisville Metro Councilman says the recent resignation of two government employees is a sign of financial mismanagement.

Two employees in Louisville’s Neighborhoods Department resigned over alleged violations of purchasing rules. The violations came to light after an internal audit and are expected to be detailed in an audit from State Auditor Crit Luallen. The full audit will be released Wednesday.

Councilman Kelly Downard says the neighborhoods resignations confirm his belief that financial oversight is lacking in Metro Government.

“I believe that the financial people within all the departments should report to the office of management and budget, then you get good accounting information,” he says. “Right now, I don’t think you do.”

Mayor Jerry Abramson says he’s been made aware of deficiencies and problems reported in the audit and has begun work on fixing them

Local News

Resolution Takes Aim At LG&E Rate Increase Request

by Gabe Bullard

A resolution addressing utility rate increases will be given first reading in Thursday’s Metro Council meeting.

The Louisville Gas and Electric company is asking the Public Service Commission to approve a rate increase. for infrastructure improvements and to recoup losses from ice and wind storms.

The resolution asks the PSC to deny the request. Sponsor Kelly Downard says his chief concerns are that it will raise the flat fee for gas delivery on all users, and that it may be an effort to boost LG&E’s value if the utility is put up for sale.

The resolution is nonbinding, and Downard acknowledges that if it passes, the PSC will not be obliged to adhere to the council’s request.

“If we’re making a professional, thoughtful, apolitical review of a situation that’s coming before them and we write them a letter and ask for something, they will certainly consider it,” he says.

The resolution will likely be sent to the Transportation and Public Works Committee for discussion.

“We’re going to say that the method by which they’re doing it we either agree or disagree and then the timing of when they do it we either agree or disagree, and let the Public Service Commission do their job,” he says.

Local News

Resolution Takes Step Toward Merged Fire Districts

Louisville Metro Councilman Dan Johnson has authored a resolution that would take the first steps toward a unified fire department in Louisville.

Johnson’s resolution asks the state legislature to commission a study on the feasibility and cost of merging the 18 suburban fire districts into the Louisville Fire Department.

“We’d have better management with one person in charge and some other people across the whole county,” he says. “Like we do with the police department, it’d make more sense and probably be cheaper.”

The Democratic councilman’s resolution comes amidst talk of tax increases to fund suburban fire districts, and management controversies in two districts. Republican Councilman Kelly Downard opposes the measure.

“Logic says that that’s a wonderful idea,” he says. “I say no. There are willfully different methods of operation and I think that’s left best to the people who do it, rather than the people who observe it, to make those decisions.”

The resolution will be introduced at Thursday’s council meeting.

Local News

Council To Debate Firefighters Payments Next Month

The Louisville Metro Council’s Budget Committee will soon meet to decide how to finance the final two payments in last year’s settlement with underpaid firefighters.

The city still owes the firefighters some thirty million dollars plus additional costs, to be paid out in two installments this year.The council can either pay the money out of cash reserves and risk lowering the city’s credit rating, or it can bond the payments and take on additional debt.

The next payment to firefighters isn’t due until the end of March, and on February 2nd, the mayor’s office will present the ramifications of each payment option to the council panel. Budget committee vice chair Kelly Downard says that gives the council plenty of time to make a decision.

“Normally what the administration does is provide us information at the last minute, at the last meeting before something has to be done and tell us it’s an emergency and we can’t stop it,” He says.

Downard says he’s interested in finding out what the additional costs in the settlement are. He says they likely deal with payroll taxes and could add millions of dollars to each payment.

Local News

Downard Calls For Refund From KLC

Louisville Metro Councilman Kelly Downard is calling for a partial refund of Louisville’s payments to the Kentucky League of Cities.

Downard has authored a resolution asking for changes within the KLC. Downard would like the group to return half of the city’s membership fees from the last three years, a sum of about 39 thousand dollars. He would also like Louisville’s annual dues to be reduced.

The resolution comes after the State Auditor uncovered extravagant spending within the KLC. The group’s director will be replaced next year, but Downard says the changes need to go deeper.

“Let me tell you, that doesn’t happen without many people knowing it’s going on and participating in it,” he says.

Mayor Jerry Abramson says rather than pass a resolution, he would like to use his role on KLC’s executive board to make changes within the organization.

Local News

Mayor's Bridges Authority Appointments Confirmed

Four members of a bi-state bridges authority have been approved.

The Louisville Metro Council Thursday moved to confirm the mayor’s nominees. The appointees will sit on a 14-member panel. The panel will determine, among other things, how to pay for two proposed new bridges over the Ohio River.

Three council members voted against the confirmations because a council member was not nominated to the panel. Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh said she’s concerned that the authority will impose tolls on the bridges without explicit approval from the residents of Louisville.

“I just believe that we shouldn’t be giving our little bit of opportunity we have for say to an unelected, appointed body, and so I’ll be voting no on this and the others for those same reasons,” she says.

Councilman Kelly Downard voted for the appointments, saying representation was not an issue, since the authority will hold public meetings.

“We’re going to be able to weigh in on anything that happens and I suspect that we all will,” says Downard. “I mean, I certainly intend to. Having a vote on the bi-state authority doesn’t mean much when you’re one out of 14.”

Beshear and Abramson say the authority will hold open and public meetings where council members may offer comment. Governor Steve Beshear’s three appointments to the body are pending approval from the state Senate.

Local News

Downard Authors Mayoral Succession Resolution

The Louisville Metro Council Thursday will give first reading to a resolution that seeks to change the succession process for the mayor’s office.

Current law states that if a mayor cannot fulfill the duties of office, the council has 30 days to appoint a successor. A resolution sponsored by Councilman Kelly Downard seeks a change in law to allow the mayor to choose a deputy mayor as his or her successor. It will be considered by the Government Oversight committee along with proposed changes to term limits.

Such changes also require approval from the state legislature. Downard says he hopes to present the General Assembly with a package of legislation that would fine-tune the merger law.

“We put this together in a manner that was very general,” he says. “The community voted on it in a very general manner and then they went back up to the legislature and tried to put some meat on the bones. And I think now, after six years, we’re going to take a look and say, ‘Maybe there’s some other ways to do this better.'”

Downard says the oversight committee may also ask the legislature to allow special elections for mayors. Otherwise the deputy mayor would serve out the predecessor’s term.

Local News

Committee Considers Term Limits, Contractor Spending

The Louisville Metro Council’s Accountability and Oversight Committee has begun discussing a proposal for mayoral term limits.

The resolution would ask the Kentucky General Assembly to change the state’s merger law to reduce maximum mayoral terms from three to two.

Ordinance sponsor Brent Ackerson says the legislation is not aimed at his fellow Democrat Jerry Abramson, who has declined to run for a third term as mayor of the merged government.

“This is not a partisan issue, this is not an indictment of anyone, this is an issue of philosophical examination of whether or not term limits in certain offices are applicable or should not be,” he says.

Instead of debating the issue in its meeting Wednesday, the committee instructed its caucus directors to research why the term limits are set at three and to look into a clearer order of succession and imposing term limits on council members.

Committee co-chair Kelly Downard says the debate will begin in earnest in two weeks.

“Next time we meet, we’ll introduce it and in the meantime I hope the caucus directors will have a list of some people who can maybe come before us and talk about the wisdom of why some of these things are there and also some of the ideas we’ll have come up with by that time,” says Downard.

The committee also passed an ordinance that would require certain contractors to disclose how city money is spent on some projects. It now goes to the full council.