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'I believe this will do it': Louisville's Metro Council unanimously approves record $1.3B budget

With boosts in funding toward police, corrections and violence prevention, public safety was high priority. But Public Works was allotted a large portion too.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Louisville community is hoping to benefit from a record $1.3 billion budget, approved unanimously by Metro Councilmembers Thursday night.

"There was an opportunity for us to all work together and come up with something that we all think will move the city forward and I believe this will do it," District 9 Councilman and Budget Committee Chair Bill Hollander said.

The fiscal year 2022-23 budget -- the largest in the city's history -- includes major investments in public safety, including boosts in funding for Louisville Metro Police (LMPD), Louisville Metro Department of Corrections (LMDC) and youth violence prevention programs.

The budget also allots more than $160 million for the city's Public Works department, with a great majority put toward capital investments -- including some to match federal grants provided through President Joe Biden's infrastructure package passed in 2021.

This means a few staples in the community will finally get redesigns that have been in the plans for years.

In the Butchertown neighborhood, the harrowing turn that connects Story Avenue, East Main Street and Baxter Avenue will get a facelift.

Andy Blieden, the owner of 18 buildings in the area including the Butchertown Market, said the all-one-way road model for a place where popular businesses and customers flourish is outdated.

"If you came here 15 years ago, there weren't all these businesses and mom-and-pops and entrepreneurs. This was basically just a feeder to get from point A to downtown. Well, now that's changed," said Blieden, who told WHAS11 groups have been working to make this move for six years. 

Blieden also referenced the dangers with the way these roadways are currently designed, saying "it's time to get rid of dead man's curve."

Through budgeted city dollars set to match federal grants, the roadways will be turned into a more traditional, four-way intersection.

"It would make it easier to get in and out. It's a plan that just makes sense," Blieden said.

And then there's the $4 million finally put toward the years-long plan to redesign Ninth Street, seen as the split symbolizing historical segregation between downtown and west Louisville.

"For years we've tried to erase that Ninth Street divide because many economic opportunities never came past Ninth Street," said Khalid Raheem, who leads The Arabian Federation Martial Arts Academy in the Parkland neighborhood.

The city hopes a modernized corridor will be a connecter, making it safer and more attractive to pedestrians.

Raheem is skeptical, speaking for many in the community who hope this latest budget will help them.

"Until you start dealing with the people and letting them feel like they are a part of the change, you're not going to have a change," he said. "You're just going to have a façade, and you still walk through an imagery of peace [in order] to get to your madness."

In the final 2022 Budget Committee session on Tuesday, Councilmembers amended part of Mayor Greg Fischer's proposal to now include more than $30 million for road repairs and repaving, including to alleys and sidewalks across the Metro.

Hollander emphasized the importance to avoid putting the city in a financial hole moving forward. He said the budget allots $11 million in rainy day funds. He also said $15 million has already been set aside for FY 2024.

Metro Councilmembers are also urging the city to defer non-essential projects until at least December 2022, when they can further assess where the surplus will stand by the end of the fiscal year.

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