Metro Council approved the city’s budget for the coming 2017-2018 fiscal year by a 24-0 vote Thursday evening, a $839 million spending plan that devotes roughly three-fourths of its general operating budget to public safety.

The council made minimal changes to the proposal that was amended by the budget committee on Tuesday, which reallocated approximately $13.4 million in spending from the budget Mayor Greg Fischer originally proposed in April. This readjustment included an increase in the total appropriations to the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust to nearly $10 million, a long-time goal of affordable housing advocates for the past decade.

With violent crime and homicides in Louisville reaching an all-time high in 2016 and on pace to increase again this year, the budget increases spending on the Louisville Metro Police Department by 10 percent from the previous year. On Tuesday, the council added $550,000 to the budget for the No More Red Dots program of street-level violence interrupters, but significantly reduced the $1 million increase for the Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods that was in Fischer’s proposed budget.

Spending on paving and road construction in the budget was increased on Tuesday by $6.4 million, with the total amount reaching $22.6 million — slightly higher than last year and nearly four times what the city budgeted just four years ago. Appropriations for sidewalk repairs is $2.5 million, as the budget committee added $1.5 million to the figure on Tuesday.

The council also kept $5.4 million in spending on the KentuckyWired project in the budget, which will lay 90 miles of fiber infrastructure that can be leased to providers wishing to offer high-speed internet. Despite efforts by Councilman Kevin Kramer, R-11, to lower that amount by $1.6 million — as he contended the city vastly overestimated the cost of laying fiber per mile — the council maintained this spending level, arguing that any savings would go toward debt payments or future build-outs of the project.

On Tuesday, the council significantly reduced spending in the proposed budget on bike lanes and tree planting, as well as scrapping $1.8 million in spending on rent for a new LMPD headquarters, $4.6 million from council-designated capital infrastructure funds and nearly $5 million from bonding projects.

The budget now goes to Fischer for his signature, who praised the spending plan in a statement released Thursday night after its passage.

“This budget’s resources are devoted heavily to public safety while continuing the city’s momentum with investments in affordable housing, neighborhoods, parks, a new Northeast Regional Library, and infrastructure like paving, sidewalks and laying fiber for internet broadband,” stated Fischer. “I appreciate the Metro Council’s collaboration and especially thank budget chair Marianne Butler and the budget committee for their diligence and dedication during these past two months. This budget balances the city’s many needs in a responsible manner.”

In a joint press release from Metro Council, the budget committee chairwoman Marianne Butler, D-15, stated: “This is a well-balanced budget that addresses many needs in our community and allows for pilots programs to address vacant and abandoned houses and to treat our mentally ill through the Living Room concept. By trying new programs we are only making our community better and addressing the needs from many avenues.”

“The addition of funding for paving, addiction services and public safety will serve as hallmarks of our efforts in this year’s budget,”stated budget committee vice chair Kevin Kramer. “I am proud of our work to cooperatively find long-term solutions for our community.”

Metro Council President David Yates, D-25, stated that “this year’s investment of $22.6 million for road paving is second year of our 10 year commitment to address this citywide concern. The council has proven its desire to address more vacant and abandoned properties by adding funds for both demolition and Lexan clear plastic to clean up our neighborhoods. The council has also heard the voices in our community calling for funding to the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund by giving two-thirds of $14.5 million of which the final third will go to the revolving loan fund supporting affordable housing development in our community, Louisville CARES.”

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Joe Sonka
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]