Metro Council’s budget committee approved Mayor Greg Fischer’s proposed city budget for the next fiscal year Thursday evening, along with amendments increasing funding for city libraries, parks, food security nonprofits, and a program to divert low-level offenders from jail and into drug addiction treatment.

The full council is scheduled to give final approval to the budget at a special meeting on June 26.

The amended budget approved by the committee on Thursday changes the mayor’s proposal to move over a third of the staff at the downtown main branch of the Louisville Free Public Library to the new Northeast Regional Library and the renovated and expanded St. Matthews branch when both are completed next spring.

Whereas some services at the downtown branch were expected to be cut, the amended budget adds $265,000 to the budget in order to keep the 20 employees at that branch, while also fully staffing both the Northeast and St. Matthews branches.

At a previous budget meeting last week, LFPL Director Jim Blanton said that it would cost $1.2 million to add 20 employees, but since the two new and renovated branches will not open until the spring, council added the lower amount.

The amended budget continues the proposed renovations at the downtown branch to consolidate all services to the first floor and use the second floor as space to be used by partners and community service organizations.

The committee also doubled the proposed funding of Dare to Care food bank to $200,000, while increasing the funding of New Roots — a nonprofit providing fresh food in underserved areas — to $70,000 from $20,000.

Centerstone Kentucky’s new Living Room Project — which diverts those with drug addiction or mental health issues into treatment and services instead of jail — has its funding increased in the amended budget by $350,000 to an even $1 million. This bump in funding is still shy of the $1.3 million that Centerstone said would be need to fully expand its program as planned.

The amended budget also doubled the graffiti abatement program of Codes and Regulations and provided an additional $50,000 for the development of the new YMCA at 18th and Broadway.

Several Metro Parks projects receive extra funding, including $200,000 for Phase III of Charlie Vettiner Park, $75,000 for soccer fields at William Harrison and Wyandotte Parks, and $50,000 for Quail Chase Golf Course. The Waterfront Development Corporation also has its funding increased by $50,000 to $1,037,000, easing the operating deficit caused by multiple years of being shut out from state funding.

A proposal by Councilman Brent Ackerson, D-26, to eliminate funding for the outdated jail above the headquarters of the Louisville Metro Police after six months — and force prosecutors and judges to release low-level offenders that cannot afford bond — was rejected by a 4 to 7 vote after a long discussion.

Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton told the council members that Ackerson’s proposal could lead to even more overcrowding in the city jail, as they had no way to force judges to change their policies or sentences.

Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]


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