Friday on Byline WFPL’s Political Editor Phillip Bailey provided review and analysis of Mayor Greg Fischer’s austere budget plan for 2012-13. 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. Metro Government had 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. Metro Council members will hold budget hearings over the next month.
In case you started the weekend early, here are some of the stories we’ve covered today that you may have missed.
Louisville Metro Government is facing a $6 million deficit based on early revenue projections. The shortfall exists despite higher receipts in the first three months of the fiscal year.
Humana president Mike McCallister has announced his retirement after 38 years with the company. He will step down within the next 18 months.
And former Alaska Governor and vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin has endorsed Republican Todd P’Pool for Kentucky attorney general. The P’Pool campaign has released robocalls in which Palin urges voters to support P’Pool and mispronounces his last name.
Budget hearings continued today before Louisville’s Metro Council. Some council members took the opportunity of having public works officials before them to criticize the way stimulus project have been handled so far.
Public Works Director Ted Pullen was before the council’s budget committee to outline his department’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Councilman Hal Heiner told Pullen he was disheartened by the fact that the council wasn’t consulted on how to best spend the 23-million dollars sent to the city in stimulus funds.
“Just for the future, we’re trying to get a closer working relationship here, and we have that on many projects, but on the stimulus one, there’s just… there’s no communication,” says Heiner.
Pullen said it was all his team could do to get the proposals in place by the short deadline.
“We were pressed so early on that things had to be here, here and here,” says Pullen, “and basically they said, you could only go with what you had. And basically, we had to fight tooth and nail to buy any extra time.”
Budget hearings continue next week, with testimony from the Neighborhoods Department, Greater Louisville, Inc., and two public comment sessions.
Two Louisville Metro Councilmen say they’ll propose an ordinance that would create a searchable database containing all Metro Government revenues and expenditures.
Republicans Hal Heiner and Ken Fleming say they’ll tap into their office expense funds to share the ten-thousand dollar cost of launching the so-called e-transparency initiative, with the expectation that Metro Government would operate the website.
Heiner says the ordinance will be introduced at the next Metro Council meeting Thursday.
“Thirty-five states have gone this way, even the us government is developing a searchable that’s available by state, by region,” Heiner said.
Also at the announcement were leaders of unions that represent many city workers.
They contend that they’ve had a difficult time recently obtaining budget information from the mayor’s office. But a mayor’s spokesperson disputes that claim, saying government data is readily available to all taxpayers, most of it on the city’s existing website.
Metro Councilman Jim King is giving up ten-percent of his Neighborhood Development Funds to help the city fill a twenty-million dollar budget gap – and he’s hoping other council members will follow suit.
The Neighborhood Development Funds are a $175,000 discretionary fund council members get each year to use for projects in their district. Council President Jim King has committed $17,500 dollars from his discretionary fund and thinks each of the remaining 25 council members will also make contributions, though in different amounts.
King says some of them may want to make sure their money is used to restore specific services that have been cut.
“I don’t think it complicates it at all,” says King, “and I think when you’re talking about discretionary spending from council districts, its important that council members have an understanding of where the money is going to be used.”
If they all contribute ten-percent of their discretionary funds, it would add about $450,000 to the city’s General Fund.