Thursday May 22, 2014
Gas franchise fee on LG&E will be spent only on Public Safety
Mayor Greg Fischer today proposed a balanced budget for the new fiscal year that makes significant public safety and youth development investments, while also paving roads, fixing park facilities and government buildings.
In his annual budget address to the Metro Council, the mayor said that the budget he is presenting is “an improvement in many ways” over the one he first presented in 2011, a few months after taking office. At that point, the city was carrying $450 million in long term debt, and had a $25 million structural imbalance in the budget.
“I told you then point blank: tough decisions had to be made….but I also told you that we would regroup, reprioritize and regain our financial security. And we’ve done that,” Fischer told the council. “The plan I’m presenting reflects a journey that we have been on together over the course of four budgets.”
The long-term debt has now been reduced by about 15 percent. The structural deficit has been reduced to zero – although pension decisions in Frankfort could change that.
Highlights to the spending plan, include the mayor’s announcement that the city would:
· Continue paving, bike lanes and street improvements at a rate of more than $6 million per year. Prior to last year, the city had been averaging just $2.5 million on paving. This continues the higher level.
· Provides $400,000 in developing plans for the South Central Regional Library in Okolona, with a commitment to move forward with construction in the next fiscal year. New state funding means the library could be built with 40 cents of local public money out of every dollar spent.
· Invests $30 million for ambulance, fire and police vehicle replacements and repairs to government facilities, including exterior repairs on the historic Metro Hall and fixing the crumbling concrete on the Belvedere before more water damage occurs. Also included in the $30 million investment, are:
· Spending $3 million on deferred maintenance, general repairs and infrastructure improvements, including work at Waverly, Shawnee, Cherokee, Boone Square, Chickasaw, Central and Shelby parks.
· Allocate $581,000 to make Slugger Field compatible with professional soccer play.
· Contribute $500,000, which will be leveraged 22 times with federal and private sources for a total $11 million to buy 10 new zero-emissions buses and create two charging stations.
· Invest $100,000 in additional tree plantings.
The spending plan — a total of $750 million in revenue that includes local, state and federal dollars — now invests even more significantly in public safety, including training 96 new police officers in the next fiscal year. That should be enough new officers to replace all expected retirements and departures, while also putting 24 additional officers on the street. The budget will also create a Real Time Crime Center with 9 employees monitoring cameras throughout the city, and hire 5 crime analysts to assist detectives in making connections, finding patterns and predicting and preventing crime citywide.
All told, including improvements to youth development by expanding community center programming, the city will spend $6.8 million in additional revenue on public safety in this budget, with nearly $5 million of it to be recurring costs.
To responsibly finance these increases, the mayor is proposing a modest 3 percent franchise fee on LG&E for gas – this is in line with other communities in Kentucky and would amount to about $20 per year for most families.
“I do not make this decision lightly,” Fischer said. “But it is the best way, at a minimal cost to most families, to pay for public safety improvements in a sustainable way.