LOUISVILLE, Ky. — In his 12th and final budget address, Mayor Greg Fischer proposed a budget of $1.3 billion for the 2022-23 fiscal year - the largest in Louisville history.
Fischer said this budgeting process was his best yet, caused in large part to the steady flow of federal funds into the city opened up a lot of spending possibilities.
The proposal, which ultimately needs to be approved by Louisville Metro Council, includes $200M more in funding than the current fiscal year.
The first reading of the new budget is Thursday at 6 p.m., and the community is invited to participate in a public hearing Wednesday at 6 p.m. People are also invited to submit comment forms if the sign-up links for the public hearings are closed.
Fischer said his top priority in this budget was public safety, and his proposal reflects his goal of reducing violence in the city.
"We are funding law enforcement, violence interruption programs and initiatives to rebuild trust in the police and the communities that they serve," Fischer said. "As the city of Breonna Taylor, Louisville has the responsibility to leading America in rebuilding this trust."
This year's budget proposal does not include any major cuts to programs or departments and 66% of the budget funding will be for employee salaries.
Some of the highlights of Fischer's budget include $10 million for affordable housing, $3 million for Evolve502 to help JCPS students excel after high school, funding for new LMPD recruit classes and money to expand hours and programming at Louisville community centers.
Additionally, Fischer is planning to include $10 million for a Rainy Day fund and an extra $15 million to cover potential budget shortfalls once the ARP and CARES funding runs out.
Mayor Fischer said the goal of his budget is to redefine what public safety looks like - focusing on prevention, intervention, accountability and funding for police.
"We can be pro-reform and pro-police," Fischer said. "We can be pro-accountability for those who continue to commit violent crimes and pro-investment in our young people so they never go down a path of violence."
The mayor's proposal includes a total of $250 million dedicated to public safety.
Of that, $210 million is earmarked for Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD). That's $25 million more than what their current budget is. The money would be used for salaries, new recruitment classes and the first phase of a new LMPD training facility.
The rest, Fischer said, is proposed to fund non-police public safety initiatives.
“With efforts grounded in best practices and community involvement, we are funding law enforcement, violence-interruption programs and initiatives to rebuild trust between police and the larger community they serve,” Fischer said.
This budget includes funding for 1,100 LMPD officers. That's 75 more than currently budgeted for at LMPD, but well below the estimated 1,300 needed to fully staff the department.
"Making record investments in a new police headquarters, new LMPD training facility, which I believe and I think others on council believe, are critical for getting us back up to full strength where we need to be, attracting officers and letting them know that we're making the kind of investments in them that are critical and show we've got their back," Louisville Metro Councilman Markus Winkler, (D-17), said.
Funding for the pilot 911 deflection program will be included in the budget as well as money for the Louisville Fire Department and the Department of Corrections.
For the jail, the funding will help expand camera systems, create additional monitoring equipment for incarcerated people who are "high-risk" and provide more body scanners at the entrances.
In addition to funding for Evolve502, which if approved, would provide all Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) students 6th grade and up tuition-free college, this year's budget proposal includes money for other programs focused on setting students up for success:
- Code Louisville - $500,000
- KentuckianaWorks - $600,000
- Summer Works - $1 million
"Public safety also means giving our kids safe places to be," Fischer said.
There's also money allocated to the Louisville Zoo. Fischer proposed allocating $5 million so to help the zoo turn undeveloped acres of zoo property into an interactive trails experience.
An additional $1.3 million will be used to launch a new program called Louisville HeARTS, which will help unite people with the "healing power of the arts."
Mayor Fischer praised the effectiveness of the Public Health and Wellness Department for their actions during the coronavirus pandemic.
In his budget proposal, the mayor is planning to give the department $4 million more than last year, bumping up its budget to $24.7 million.
Other health-focused priorities in this budget include planting more trees and creating an Energy Innovation Fund.
The Louisville Metro Council Budget Committee will review Fischer's proposal over the next two months. During this time, they will listen to feedback from the community and look at the funding for each department.
According to a release from Metro Council, more than 37 hours of hearings have been scheduled to review this year's budget proposal. Two of those hearings will include public comment.
Those two public comment dates are May 18 at 6 p.m. and June 2 at 6 p.m. Members of the community may participate virtually or in person. An online form to submit comments will be open starting at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 28.
On June 23, Metro Council is scheduled to meet to adopt the budget for FY23.
This address was Fischer's last.
The three-term mayor, who's been in office since 2011, will be term-limited at the end of this year.
During his address, he spent some time reflecting back on his legacy.
During the past 12 years, Fischer said more than $21 billion has been invested in the city. This money has helped build new libraries, made investments in west Louisville and brought back some of the city's beloved attractions including Colonial Gardens and Slugger Field.
More than $475 million has been invested in housing efforts to help the city's houseless population and Fischer said the funding has helped more than 20,000 people move out of poverty.
During his administration, several Metro Government officers were created to better needs the needs of the city's residents including:
- Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods
- Office of Equity
- Louisville Forward
- Office of Sustainability
- Office for Performance Improvement and Innovation
- Office for Globalization
- One Water
From building new bridges to the introduction of the tourism ideal of "Bourbonism," Fischer said he feels like he has "laid the groundwork" for the city's success.
“I truly believe Louisville, from corner to corner, neighborhood to neighborhood… has become one of the most vibrant, one of the most entrepreneurial and one of the most compassionate cities in America. I see it every day – in old and young, in you and in my team, in businesses and schools. And this budget keeps that going,” he said.
You can see the full budget proposal here.