Metro Council memo suggests possible city budget cuts

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WHAS11.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 6:43 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 13 at 4:27 PM

Five days after Mayor Jerry Abramson announced layoffs and other cutbacks to balance the city's budget, the Metro Council's budget committee began hearings on Tuesday. WHAS11 Newshas obtained an internal survey that could point to future cuts in the city budget.

U of L economist Paul Coomes told the committeehe thinks the recession is ending now,and that Louisville jobs and the resulting occupational taxes should begin to rebound in January -- the second half of the fiscal year.

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But what if that's too optimistic? The Metro Council is planning now in case future budget cuts are needed, using aninternal survey of the priorities of metro council members. The results weresent to the mayor on May 13. The 16 departments ranked lowest on the list could be next in line for more cuts.

"I think the economy this time next year will be moving along pretty well,"Coomes told the committee, "And we'll start to add some jobs."

WhileCoomes is optimistic that the economy will begin its rebound within the next fiscal year, the city's revenue numbers from the last twelve months are dismal.

"This marks the first time that we've actually had a decline in occupational taxes to our city county governments in history,"Coomes disclosed saying that the 1.5% drop in estimated revenue in FY2010 is on top of the 2% drop in FY2009.

The budget committee's vice chairman says the council needs to be "very vigilant."

"Because it could go either way,"Republican Kelly Downard said, "I'm concerned."

"I think you're going to see the council, this budget committee comes forth with a listing of priorities of things to do to cut if we have additional cuts and also ideas if we have additional revenue."

In fact, WHAS11'sJoe Arnoldhas obtained that list of Metro Council priorities. In the memo, Democratic budget committee chairman Jim King says 16 areas or departments "did not receive consensus support as being mission critical to the role of metro Louisville, saying further, they "should be considered for budget cuts."

Last on the Metro Council priority list are swimming pools, International Affairs and the Downtown Development Corporation.

Rounding out the bottom ten are Brightside, the Housing Trust Fund, Criminal Justice Commission, Waterfront Development, Park Land acquisition, Neighborhoods, and the Human Relations Commission.

"(They are) not required to fulfill the mission of this city,"Downard argued, "Now that's really tough. And some of them are great services and people enjoy them. But we can run the city without them."

Democratic Councilwoman Madonna Flood expressed concerns about some cuts but said, "There's a definite difference between needs and wants. And we need to concentrate on the needs of this town not the wants of all 26 of us (council members).

After three weeks of hearings andpublic input, the council is due to vote on the budget on June 25, before the beginning of thefiscalyear July 1.

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