Back in January, we reported  that Louisville’s new mayor, Greg Fischer, was projecting a $12 million deficit in the current fiscal year ending June 30, and a $20-30 million deficit in next fiscal year. At that time, the mayor said: "There have been some cities that declared bankruptcy. There are others that are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. We are not going to allow that to happen here in our city. So we have to take action.”
Today, Mayor Fischer unveiled a substantial effort to deliver on that promise, by proposing a balanced budget for the new fiscal year that does not raise taxes but makes strategic investments in the future, including building the Southwest Regional Library, funding three new police recruit classes and foreclosing on 100 vacant and abandoned properties.
The spending plan — $512 million in general fund dollars — also invests significantly in public safety, which will result in 96 new police officers and one new fire recruit class.
The budget also makes structural changes that will help the city begin to solve its fiscal challenges so future expenses more closely match future revenues. The budget, for example, reduces overtime across city government by 10 percent, a $3.1 million savings, and the city will begin to see savings due to new union contracts in Corrections and Emergency Medical Services. In addition, the mayor is giving up his contingency fund.
In 17 months of the administration, Fischer and his team have addressed 40 percent of the $25 million structural imbalance.
“Louisville is one of the best cities in the world and it deserves the best city government in the world – best at economic development, best at protecting our citizens, best at responding to emergencies,” Fischer said. “This budget helps us start to achieve those goals and sets us on the right course.”
The budget contains no layoffs and no furloughs and gives non-union employees a 2 percent cost-of-living raise.
The city was facing a $20 million deficit in the budget, but was able to close that gap for two reasons.
First, revenues are estimated to grow 2.7 percent, a more robust rate than originally anticipated, which will produce $13.5 million. “We are seeing increased tax revenues from an overall improved economy,” Fischer said.
Second, the city is selling two downtown parking lots – the City Hall Lot and the Mud lot – to the Parking Authority of River City for $10.7 million. PARC is also paying the city $4 million for two garages which it purchased from the former county government at merger but for which the payment was never made.
During his mayoral campaign in 2010, Fischer promised citizens that he would begin construction on the Southwest Regional Library in his first term.
Revenue sources in current Louisville city budget
“I am keeping that promise,” Fischer said. “The library is the only project I’m borrowing money to pay for. The city should generally only issue bonds for strategic long-term investments and the library meets that standard.”
The library, to be located in Valley Station on Dixie Highway, will cost $13 million. The city will pay $9.5 million and the Library Foundation will raise $3.5 million.
“This is one of several great examples of how we have leveraged taxpayer dollars with contributions from the private sector,” Fischer said.
Other ways in which the city attracted private dollars include:
- $1 million SummerWorks jobs program for at-risk teens. The city is contributing $100,000 and the private sector $900,000;
- $900,000 to purchase 82 acres of land that will connect the Louisville Loop with Jefferson Memorial Forest. The city will contribute $450,000 and David and Betty Jones will contribute $450,000;
- The creation of the Louisville Heritage Conservation Fund to help save and restore historic properties in Louisville in emergency situations. The city is contributing $500,000 toward that fund to be matched dollar-for-dollar by a private donor. The first project to receive a loan from the fund will be the Whiskey Row project on Main Street.
The mayor also continued funding $4.9 million in grants to external agencies, arts, community ministries, and social service agencies. He 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 since city-county merger in 2003.
Other budget highlights include:
- $1.5 million to replace the HVAC system at Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center in Crescent Hill;
- $500,000 to assemble West Louisville property to help attract business. One of the biggest obstacles to job creation in that area is the lack of large tracts of land;
- $500,000 for lighting and other improvements on South Fourth Street, between the Seelbach and Brown hotels, to attract retail downtown;
- $400,000 to purchase 55-gallon recycling bins for two neighborhoods to be chosen at a later date. The city is piloting the larger bins on two routes to determine if people recycle more often;
- $125,000 to help foreclose on 100 of the most marketable vacant properties. Those properties, in turn, would be sold to private investors who would renovate them and improve neighborhoods;
- $90,000 to hire a nurse to help with non-emergency calls for EMS;
- $75,000 to buy e-books for library users;
- $60,000 to hire a tree inspector to help improve the city’s tree canopy;
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.
Expenditure classifications in current Louisville city budget
Proposed 2012-2013 Budget Highlights
No tax increases; Maintains basic services and workforce levels
Closes part of the budget gap by better managing city resources
- $6.7 million by selling Mud Lot to Parking Authority of River City
- $4 million by selling City Hall lot to PARC
- $3.9 million for sale in 2003 of county garages to PARC to be collected
Makes structural changes to address long-term deficit
- $3.1 million reduction in overtime across all agencies
- New contracts with EMS, Corrections that reduce overtime and pay increases
Makes significant investments in public safety
- Provides $304 million for police, fire, EMS and public protection — about 66% of General Fund dollars.
- Funds three police recruit classes – 96 new officers
- Funds one fire recruit class
Makes strategic investments for the future and leverages public dollars with private matches
- $9.5 million to build the Southwest Regional Library; matched with $3.5 million from the Library Foundation
- $1.5 million to replace the HVAC system at Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center
- $500,000 to acquire West Louisville property to attract businesses
- $500,000 for a Louisville Heritage Conservation Fund for historic preservation; to be matched dollar-for-dollar by private donor
- $500,000 for new lighting/streetscape on South Fourth Street to attract retail
- $450,000 to help by 82 acres of land in Fairdale for Louisville Loop and Jefferson Memorial Forest; matched with $450,000 from David and Betty Jones Sr.
- $100,000 to help create a 25-year plan and vision for the city
- $100,000 for SummerWorks jobs program for at-risk teens; matched with $900,000 in private and business donations
- $75,000 to buy e-books for library users
Invests in innovations that will save money, make city greener
- $400,000 to purchase 55-gallon recycling bins for two neighborhood routes
- $125,000 to help foreclose on 100 of the most marketable vacant properties
- $60,000 to hire tree inspector to help improve city’s tree canopy
Provides $4.9 million to non-profit agencies that help citizens. Money will fund arts, community ministries, and social service agencies.
Louisville.com's The Arena section features opinions from active participants in the city's politics. Their viewpoints are not those of Louisville.com (a website is an inanimate object and, as such, has no opinions). The Arena is read by more people in Louisville than in any other city in America.