LOUISVILLE (WHAS11) -- With the Louisville Metro facing a $35 million deficit Mayor Greg Fischer presented a grim budget for the city to the Louisville Metro Council on April 25.
The city is facing a deficit because of Kentucky’s state pension costs. In March, the Council voted not to create new revenue that would have avoided cuts in this budget.
Previously, the city’s budget has been lean and efficient so this budget proposal was difficult as more cuts had to be made, according to the mayor.
“It’s no secret that I strongly disagree with the choice (Council) made,” Mayor Fischer said. But “my responsibility is to translate your vote into a budget.”
Fischer said every department will see cuts in his proposed budget.
"These cuts are going to take place all the city and all of the departments. Some of the departments were hit harder than other departments," Fischer said.
Public safety took a smaller percentage cut with a net reduction of 40 uniformed officers. With that in mind, seventeen School Resouce Officers will also be removed from Jefferson County schools and put back on the streets.
"JCPS is it's own taxing district, just as the city is its own taxing district. Their budget is about three times the size of our budget, so Dr. Pollio is aware of this. They will have their own school safety strategy, which we'll coordinate with LMPD, but it's important for us to maximize every resource we have on what our citizens are paying in our specific taxing district," Fischer said.
Engine 1 firehouse on Grade Lane will be closed and one ambulance will be removed from the streets.
“Our resources in public health, safe and healthy neighborhoods, libraries, parks, and community centers also make essential contributions to public safety by making sure kids have a place to go to and trusted adults to help them stay on the right path,” he said.
The office for Safe & Healthy Neighborhoods, which coordinates outreach programs like Reimage, Cure Violence and Pivot to Peace, will continue to have funding but at an 18 percent reduction.
The budget does include $1 million for homeless services, $1.1 million for community ministries, $5 million for affordable housing.
Nina Moseley, the director of Wayside Christian Mission, tells WHAS11 about the mayor's proposal to provide $1 million for homeless services:
"We are grateful that Mayor Fischer has included significant funding in his proposed budget for homeless services. Metro Louisville is facing a very complex situation with homeless issues, and Mayor Fischer has a good understanding of the complexity of the problem. This is not a situation with one simple solution. Folks experiencing homelessness in Louisville are very diverse with very different problems and goals. There is no "one size fits all" solution to this problem. I hope all homeless providers continue to work together to help Metro's homeless citizens. We look forward to the budget being finalized and to homeless services continuing to help the least of Louisville's community," Nina Moseley, the Director of Wayside Christian Mission, said.
While all of the city’s community centers will remain open in the coming year, the Charmoli Neighborhood Place in Middletown will close. Two libraries, Middletown and Fern Creek, will be closing too.
"While we're opening a beautiful new library at the northeast, and a newly renovated library with St. Matthews, where we leveraged about $1 million our money and about $3 million of St. Matthews, there's two libraries that are closing that will be saving about a million dollars," Fischer said.
Libraries will see a reduction in operating hours but will still be open on Sundays.
"Libraries, unfortunately, took a significant hit in this budget."
OTHER BUDGET NOTES
- Proposal funds Tech Talent and SummerWorks programs, but it does reduce overall funding for economic development and agencies that keep the city clean and green
- The paving budget goes from $18.2 million to $15.2 million
- It includes the smallest capital budget proposed in six years, focuses on maintenance
The budget proposal does assume the Metro Council will increase property tax revenue by 4 percent and that would only generate $1.2 million in tax revenue for the city. Under state law, according to the Mayor's spokesperson Jean Porter, if the property tax revenue growth is more than 4 percent it is subject to a voter recall. If property tax revenue growth is less than 4 percent the city is allowed to increase the rate by a Metro Council vote.
Porter said the Fiscal Year budget of 2020 is forecast to see a 3 percent increase so that means property owners could see about a 1 percent increase in their property tax rate.
With the $1.2 million in tax revenue, that would lead the city to eliminate as many as 312 Metro Government positions—positions like full-time, part-time, seasonal, union and non-union. It includes 100 layoffs.
Most health policies for Metro employees will see an increase of three percent on premiums, deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses.
Mayor Fischer said he will be investing in the city’s youth by donating 20 percent of his salary in the coming fiscal year to SummerWorks.
Fischer told the Council that the pension obligation will only grow here on out for the city. Without new revenue, more cuts in the future are not avoidable.
“Initially, we expected our pension bill to increase by about $10 million a year until 2023, when it would stabilize, meaning at least another $30 million in the three years after FY20,” he said. “But just last week, KRS adjusted its predictions again. It now appears we can expect the rate of increase to continue even beyond 2023.”
Mayor Fischer urged the Council to support new sources of revenue in the fiscal year ahead, “mindful that while we deal with this pension-driven budget challenge, our peer cities—Nashville, Indianapolis, Cincinnati—are investing in themselves, in their infrastructure, transportation and quality of life.”