Thursday May 27, 2004
Mayor Jerry Abramson today unveiled a $446.5 million budget plan that puts more police officers on the street and proposes a $25 million initiative to repair deteriorating sidewalks, roads, park facilities and fire houses throughout the community.
“The budget I present today will focus on our community’s spending priorities and build on the strong foundation we’ve laid over the past year-and-a-half,” Abramson said. “We’re focusing on key priorities, from public safety to strong neighborhoods, to make the most of partnerships all through our new city of Louisville and to keep in mind the long-term investments we must make for our future.”
The centerpiece of the budget plan is the “Foundation for Our Future Fund,” a $25 million, three-year capital initiative to resolve long-deferred maintenance needs in Metro Government assets.
Abramson proposes selling bonds to finance the maintenance backlog, taking advantage of low-interest rates and Louisville Metro Government’s outstanding credit rating.
“From crumbling sidewalks and substandard roads to leaking roofs and cracked swimming pools, the Foundation for Our Future program will address crucial needs that have long been deferred, denied and delayed,” Abramson said. “If you compare it to your family finances, local government has lived on its income and put off that new roof or furnace only to find it now needs a new water heater and gutters, too.”
Public safety remains his No. 1 priority, Abramson said. The Louisville Metro Police Department would receive the largest funding increase – 4.2 percent or $4.7 million. Abramson said his budget puts 13 more police officers on the street, adds 26 civilians to put crime information in their hands and authorizes two new recruit classes totaling 60 police officers. With additional staff proposed in the budget, Abramson and Police Chief Robert White will have put 82 more officers on the street – the most in the community’s history.
The budget also includes $1 million for non-lethal Taser Guns for all patrol officers and sergeants and $4 million to purchase the Federal Reserve Bank Building to house MetroSafe, the communications operations center that will for the first time link all the community’s emergency first responders, Abramson said. “I said public protection was our top priority. So do our budget numbers. The result will be more police on the streets deterring and solving crime and an entire police force armed with up-to-date information as they do their jobs.”
Other highlights include:
· $6.5 million for new and established efforts to create good jobs and foster business growth throughout Louisville
· $2 million to purchase books and other materials for the Public Library system and completion of a $1 million investment in a new collection of books and music on CDs and films on DVDs
· $6.1 million in grants to about 200 non-profit agencies
· $2 million in a new home ownership and revitalization program in the historic Portland neighborhood
· $50,000 for a feasibility study for a possible Baxter Avenue parking garage
· $450,000 to begin design for River Road expansion from Eighth to 12th streets
· $7 million in new road, bridge and sidewalk projects, including Johnsontown Road, Hobbs Lane Bridge and Indian Trail
· $700,000 for an air-toxics reduction program to improve Louisville’s air quality.
Before the budget writing began, Abramson said he faced $21 million in mandated spending increases for union contracts, pension contributions and rising health-care costs and other requirements. However, revenues in the next fiscal year are projected to rise by nearly 3 percent because of an improving economy and continuing efforts to find ways to work more efficiently and effectively. About 90 unneeded positions will be eliminated, 15 of which are currently filled. And 40 new employees will be hired in key areas such as the police department, Parks and Emergency Medical Services. Non-union employees also would receive a 2 percent raise. Abramson and his top staff will not receive raises.
“Just as we are taking care of the city’s physical resources, I am committed to fair and responsible treatment of our human resources in city government,” Abramson said of employees. “They’ve worked tremendously hard and coped with enormous change over the past year.”