With the Mayor’s FY14 Budget delivered, the Metro Council now begins its duty of reviewing the details. This review will take place over the course of the next three weeks, as the Budget Committee holds approximately 25 hours of hearings with various department directors in order to question their plans, results and ideas for delivering basic services. For a complete listing of our hearing schedule, please visit www.louisvilleky.gov/metrocouncil
No New Taxes or Fees
According to the Mayor’s presentation and our initial review of documents presented by the office of the Mayor, there are no new taxes or increased taxes proposed within this budget. While the Mayor did continue his push to create a new 1% Local Option Sales Tax (LOST), he acknowledged the need for state action prior to being able to raising nearly $100 million in new taxes on most items purchased within Jefferson County. I remain concerned about this proposal, and will continue to keep you informed if the potential for a new tax becomes closer to passage.
Proposed Savings or Reduced Expenses
The Mayor used his presentation to tout the decrease in unbudgeted overtime by 14% over the past few years. This focus has led to more than $1 million in savings to taxpayers. He also credits the recently installed Louie Stat Software which has helped to save several million dollars through better use of technology to plan and follow up on delinquent fines, fees and other obligations.
Paving, Sidewalks and Bike lanes
Addressing Infrastructure needs that were neglected under the previous Mayor, I along with a bipartisan group of council members from across the community joined together to call on Mayor Fisher to dedicate more funds towards addressing crumbling roads and other infrastructure needs. To highlight our focus on the need for more road funds, I and members of the Republican Caucus on the Metro Council dedicated every CIF/discretionary dollar from our FY12 Budget and more than 2/3 of all funds from the FY13 Budget to paving those streets rated as the worst in those districts we represent. This year, to show our commitment for important paving projects, members of the Republican Caucus have pledged more than half of our CIF/discretionary funds and an additional $500,000 in other funds that have accumulated over the past few years for much needed paving projects.
This pledge may be a drop in the bucket for what is needed to address all of our sub-par roads, but is our way of leading by example. To the Mayor’s credit, he has increased the amount allocated towards repaving, bike lanes and sidewalks. This amount is far short of the more than $18 million requested by the Public Works Department to adequately address the needs of the community but does move us toward our goals of acceptable roads throughout the county. In the coming weeks, we will use the budget hearing process to understand the plan for repaving and we also look forward to explanations from the administration on why such a large portion of these funds are being directed to Old Louisville.
Community Ministries Receiving Additional Funding
In 2011, the Council requested the 16 Community Ministries develop a new formula to allocate Metro dollars for emergency assistance. The FY14 budget includes funding individual ministries based on the new formula using a weighted average of the 2010 poverty levels. This new formula increases the funding to areas of our community where the poverty levels have increased. In addition to the new formula, the Mayor is recommending that no ministry receive less funding than in previous years.
Urton Lane Corridor: One of the top priorities for members of the Republican Caucus was to see funding for the Urton Lane Extension. This approximately $1.5 million project provides a north-south minor arterial west of and parallel to the Gene Snyder Freeway (I-265) to link numerous local roads and arterials. Construction of the Urton Lane Extension will serve Bluegrass Commerce Park, a major employment center for eastern Jefferson County that includes approximately 1,800 acres and houses 850 companies with some 40,000 employees. The Urton Lane Extension will help with adding up to 10,000 additional jobs and 400 acres to the park for new companies to operate.
Outdoor Warning Sirens: Three new warning sirens will be installed in areas of Jefferson County with large increases in population growth. The sirens will be located at I-71 and US 42, I-265 at Bardstown/Beulah Church Road and near Shelbyville Road and the County Line.
Relocation of East Government Center: Last year I added funding to the budget to help plan for a new Government Center to serve the people of Eastern Jefferson. This year, understanding the growing needs of the fastest growing districts of the Metro area, Mayor Fisher has allocated $400,000 for relation of government offices/services to a new location in eastern Jefferson County.
Traffic light synchronization: For more than two years, I have worked to fund traffic light synchronization, and although the previous administration seemed slow to support it, Mayor Fischer and his budget embrace the need to address problematic traffic lights and shorten the time it takes to navigate our streets. This year $300,000 was included in the budget to assist in moving forward on Phase II of the Synchronization Project (Bardstown Road and Preston Highway).
Additional Staffing: The Mayor’s Budget Proposal also includes the creation of approximately 20 full time and 5 part time employees. Some of the positions will be filled to address our needs for greater enforcement of fines and penalties or for better operations at Metro Animal Services. A few other positions are being created to utilize new technologies, study real estate development and address issues related to vacant properties. While most of these positions seem worthwhile, I look forward to asking questions during the budget hearings, so that I can better understand the need for additional staff.
The proposed FY14 Budget offers hope that the days of furloughs and forced layoffs are now behind us. While there is still room for some cost-cutting measures, this budget allows us to begin to address some of the important infrastructure projects that have been put off in the past, due to limited resources. I look forward to hearing from department heads as they explain their budget priorities, and I look forward to working with my council colleagues as we put together a budget that serves our community for the next year.
As the budget hearings progress, I plan to focus on improving road maintenance, business/job attraction, property maintenance, park improvements and most importantly supporting our public safety officers.