Monday May 20, 2013
Improved revenues, controlled expenses allow for investments
Mayor Greg Fischer today proposed a balanced budget for the new fiscal year that does not raise taxes but makes long-needed and deferred infrastructure investments, including paving roads across Louisville, installing 28 new miles of bike lanes and increasing funding to community ministries.
The spending plan — a total of $716.2 million that includes local, state and federal dollars — invests significantly in public safety, including two police recruit classes and fire and corrections classes while continuing the new paramedic training academy. Approximately 60 percent of the city’s $528 million general fund budget is spent on public safety.
The budget also increases the annual emergency maintenance budget for Metro Parks and Public Works from $500,000 each to $750,000 and $830,000 respectively.
For the first time in years, the city is spending significant dollars — $6.4 million — to pave roads and create bike lanes during the upcoming construction season (now through fall). Since merger, the city has spent, on average, $2.5 million annually. The roads to be paved will be determined by Public Works based on the most urgent needs.
Presenting his third city budget, Fischer and his team have reduced the $22 million structural imbalance that existed when he took office in 2011 to $7 million.
“After many years of budgets that required significant cuts, we are finally able to make some investments in basic infrastructure,” Fischer said. “We still have a deficit and we still must watch every dollar we spend, but with an improved economy and increases in revenues we are in a much better position this budget than the past two.”
Chief Financial Officer Steve Rowland said the city expects to carry forward $3.3 million from the current budget to the new 2014 budget to fund capital projects. This surplus is due to higher than anticipated growth in general fund revenues and to due to the administration’s controlling spending and not replacing employees once they retire or leave city government.
The budget provides non-union employees a 2 percent cost-of-living raise (union employees raises are set by their union contract).
The mayor also continued funding grants to external agencies, including arts and social service agencies at the same level as his proposed budget last year. Committees that include citizens and Metro Council members recommended the agencies to receive the grants, based on a competitive process, and the mayor accepted those recommendations without changes.
However, he has increased by 21 percent funding to community ministries — which provide food and emergency assistance to low-income families — bringing them collectively to $1.1 million
“The ministries provide direct services to our most vulnerable citizens -- and they do it well,” Fischer said. “Their funding has remained flat for many years even as the need has increased.”
Fischer also kept funding levels for the University of Louisville indigent health care fund, known as the Quality Care and Charity Trust, at $7 million, the same level for the past six years.
The 28 new miles of bike lanes are concentrated in Old Louisville to connect UL to Old Louisville to downtown, thus becoming the first truly connected bike-friendly neighborhood. The mayor said that as the city paves streets under the new budget, bike lanes will be added everywhere possible.
The budget is the first since the Fischer administration adopted its strategic plan -- and the budget aligns with that plan. Budget highlights -- and their strategic goals -- include:
Deliver Excellent City Services
o Buys 15 ambulances.
o Purchases a new body scanner at Community Corrections Center.
o Invests in redesign of the city website, in part to make it easy to use on smart phones.
o Installs self-service check-out stations at five libraries, Bon Air, Iroquois, Shively, Westport, and Highlands-Shelby Park.
o Adds new tornado sirens, near I-71 and US 42, near Bardstown and Beulah Church roads and near Shelbyville Road and the county line.
o Installation of new LEED-certified buildings for the city’s three of five recycling drop-off locations.
Take job creation to the next level
o Continues funding Metropolitan College, the partnership with UPS, at $975,000.
o Continues funding GLI to create jobs, at $956,000.
o Invests $1.5 million on downtown sidewalks to help attract new retails and businesses.
o Dedicates $500,000 to assembling land in West Louisville for economic development.
Invest in people and neighborhoods
o Provides $500,000 in matching grant which, along with Olmsted Conservancy dollars, will finally fix the crumbling Northern Overlook at Iroquois Park.
o Provides $750,000 in matching money that will, in total, secure $3 million of outside money for the Louisville Loop.
o Hires a Vacant and Abandoned Properties coordinator and reorganizes the Community Services and Revitalization staff to create a VAP team – making sure our various efforts to address the vacant and abandoned property issues are leveraged in one place. In addition, the city will hire new positions in the county attorney’s office to expedite foreclosures.
Make plans for a vibrant future.
o Invests $150,000 in the 25-year Vision Louisville plan (which has to date been largely funded by private donations).
o Buys the larger recycling bins for two new routes inside the Urban Services District (routes to be determined later).
o Hires an Urban Forester and provides $50,000 for a tree canopy study and another $100,000 for planting trees.
The mayor presented his budget plan today to the Metro Council, which will spend the next month reviewing it before a final vote in late June. The new fiscal year begins July 1.