Spending

Louisville mayor unveils 2023 budget plan with increased spending for police and youth – 89.3 WFPL News Louisville

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has released a proposed $1.3 billion budget for the coming year that he says is focused on increasing resources for public safety agencies and programs for young people, as well as long-term investments in new facilities and attractions.

Fischer presented his budget plan for fiscal year 2023, which begins July 1, at the Metro Council on Thursday afternoon. It was the last budget speech from the time-limited mayor who has ruled the city for more than a decade. The Metro Council will debate and make changes to the proposed spending plan over the coming months.

During his budget speech, Fischer said making sure residents feel safe and restoring trust between police and the community is the “first and foremost goal” of his proposal. Louisville has had two consecutive years of record homicides, and there are no signs of it slowing down, Fischer said.

“For the coming fiscal year, I am confident that we have delivered a reasonable budget that both meets today’s needs and continues to position Louisville and its great people for success,” he said.

Fischer’s proposed budget increases funding for the Louisville Metro Police Department from $185 million last year to about $210 million, thwarting calls from some activists to reallocate police dollars to social services. This figure includes funding for three classes of LMPD recruits and $6 million to acquire land and design a new police training facility in Jefferson County. The funding is part of a three-year plan to increase the LMPD’s workforce by around 150 officers by 2025.

The budget also includes $3.7 million to expand the struggling downtown jail’s camera surveillance system and increase the number of body scanners there. Fischer said the investments could help prevent more deaths and overdoses at the facility. Since November, eight people have died in custody.

Under the proposal, funding would continue at current levels for the Louisville Metro Emergency Department’s 911 diversion pilot program, which provides a social service response to certain mental health crises rather than dispatching a police officer. Funding for the city’s Group Violence Intervention Initiative would also remain stable at around $500,000.

“This budget really puts in place a comprehensive approach to public safety,” Fischer said at a news conference Thursday morning. “So it’s not just law enforcement, it’s also the non-law enforcement aspects of intervention, prevention, community programs, education.”

New investments in young Louisville residents through a $3 million matching grant for the Evolve502 scholarship program, which funds scholarships to cover two-year college degrees or workforce training, are also in the budget. The same goes for more than $400,000 for expanding hours and programs at community centers across the city, in addition to existing plans to spend $8.5 million in federal COVID assistance for resources to young people aged 10 to 24.

“Public safety also means giving our children a safe place,” Fischer said.

The Louisville Metro’s $715 million general fund, funded by taxes and used to finance the city’s day-to-day operations, accounts for more than half of its overall budget. Another $343 million is tied up in what is called the capital budget. This is funded primarily through grants and loans for longer-term projects and expenses, such as renovating or expanding city buildings and public parks.

The General Fund budget increased by $57 million over last year, primarily due to increased property tax and payroll tax revenues. But much of the new funding has been swallowed up by wage increases for employees and inflation in the prices of goods and services.

Many of the city’s unionized workers, including Metro Corrections employees and emergency service workers, received an 8% wage increase earlier this year. Even so, Fischer said the city continues to struggle to hire and retain employees, with vacancy rates for some departments reaching nearly 25%.

The proposed budget includes funding for various capital projects, such as the planned Kentucky Trails exhibit at the Louisville Zoo, the westward expansion of Waterfront Park, and a new downtown research complex for the Envirome Institute. from the University of Louisville.

There is also $1.4 million in the budget for a new burn building for the fire department. Some of these capital projects are funded in the form of matching grants, meaning organizations will need to find a similar amount through private donors.

With an eye to the future, Fischer said his proposed budget would set aside $10 million for the city’s “rainy day fund” and an additional $15 million to cover any unforeseen budget shortfalls. The city has received more than $500 million in federal aid during the pandemic, and he said having money in the bank will help provide stability when those funds run out.

Metro Board Responds

Following Fischer’s final budget speech on Thursday afternoon, the Subway Board went into recess while some members held a press conference at City Hall to give their immediate reactions, although they won’t have not yet read the budget proposal.

Metro Council members, including Democrat Bill Hollander of District 9, center, react to Mayor Greg Fischer’s final budget speech on April 28, 2022.

District 17 Councilman Markus Winkler, who leads the Democratic caucus, said the increased revenue flowing into city coffers is a testament to the resilience of the local economy. He also praised Fischer for including funding for an LMPD training facility.

“I believe, and I also believe that other members of the board believe, that these investments are essential to get us back to full strength where we need to be, to attract officers and let them know that we are making the investments that show that we have them back,” Winkler said.

Republican Caucus Leader Anthony Piagentini, who represents District 19 in far eastern Louisville, said he appreciates Fischer’s focus on infrastructure investment. He warned, however, that he would seek to ensure that the money is distributed in Jefferson County.

“It’s a big city,” Piagentini said. “We need to make sure that every area, especially the growth areas, is supported.”

Many council members who attended the press conference declined to criticize the proposed budget, saying they had yet to see the full document, which was released as Fischer spoke.

District 26 Democrat Brent Ackerson, however, chastised Fischer for what he saw as a breach of a promise he made to residents in 2016 to bring the city’s roads to an “above average” grade. The proposed 2023 budget maintains road paving funding at $22 million. Ackerson, who was not present at the press conference, released a statement calling for this to be increased.

“It’s a shame to see our mayor break a promise like this as he walks out the door,” he said. “It will be even more shameful if my colleagues at the Metro Council do not restore this important funding.”

The Board will hold approximately 30 meetings on the recommended budget over the next two months. During this time, each city department head will appear before the Council to justify their budget requests.

That will begin on May 9, when staff from the Office of Management and Budget will preview Fischer’s proposal. There will also be two public hearings — May 18 and June 2 — where citizens will be able to give their opinion on the budget. Participation details are available here.

The Metro Council will take the final vote on the budget on June 23.

This story has been updated to include reaction from Metro Council members.