Tuesday February 5, 2008
Closes least-used pools, freezes vacancies, protects public safety
Mayor Jerry Abramson today announced $9.4 million in spending restrictions and savings to address a projected revenue shortfall, the result of a national and state economic downturn.
Abramson announced the reductions one day after seeing January revenue receipts that show continued declines that will likely drive the budget shortfall higher and require additional cutbacks in the current budget and the 2008-09 budget.
“The difficulties on Wall Street, in Washington and in Frankfort have trickled down to Main Street in Louisville,” Abramson said. “We will need to do more in the coming year to shrink the base of city government.”
Abramson made the spending reductions without layoffs or cuts in employment levels in police, fire and other public protection agencies, which account for more than 52 percent of the city’s budget and full-time employees. All budgeted public safety classes will be maintained.
Reductions in police and public protection agencies are held to 1.1 percent while other departments across government will average spending cuts of about 3 percent. The Mayor’s Office led all agencies and departments with a 5 percent reduction.
More than $1 million in personnel costs and equipment purchase have already been saved as a result of the hiring freeze and spending restrictions ordered by Abramson in late November.
“The latest revenue numbers show it was wise to move swiftly in November and to ignore those who claimed it was an overreaction to order a hiring freeze and spending reductions,” Abramson said. “If we had listened to them, balancing the budget would have likely required layoffs or reduced employment levels in our public safety forces.”
Because two-thirds of the city’s budget goes for salaries, health insurance and other employee costs, the bulk of the spending reductions come from leaving open vacant non-sworn positions across government. Departments are also making reductions in travel, office equipment, professional training and miscellaneous expenses.
Five Swimming Pools to Close
The spending reductions avoid cuts in most city services. However, to make spending reductions in seasonal personnel and maintenance in the Parks Department, five swimming pools with will be closed this summer – Watterson Elementary, Hazelwood Elementary, Western High School, Breslin Park and Shelby Park.
The five are among the least-used pools in the parks system, said Parks Director Mike Heitz. About half of the patrons are transported to these pools as part of summer camps and can be diverted to other city pools.
Outdoor pool attendance has declined by nearly 50 percent in the past decade, Heitz said. Pool operations will be consolidated at four outdoor pools – Sun Valley Park, Nelson Hornbeck Park in Fairdale, Camp Taylor Park and Algonquin Park – and two year-round indoor pools – Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center and Shawnee High School. The Parks Department is completing an aquatic master plan that will recommend adding splash parks in the future.
Police, Fire, Public Safety Staffing Protected
Despite the spending restrictions, anticipated police staffing levels will increase over last year’s levels and reach the highest mark in the past five years with more than 1,200 sworn officers, Abramson said. The higher levels are the result of larger recruit classes and lower-than-anticipated retirements and other vacancies.
A lateral class will begin in late March and another recruit class, the third in the past year, will begin in June. Those four classes will provide more than 120 police officers to protect citizens.
The police department ended last year with 95 percent of its authorized strength with 63 vacant positions. Chief Robert White estimates the department will end this budget year with 19 vacancies, or 98.5 percent of authorized strength.
The largest area of the $1.48 million in police department savings will come from the sale of a little-used back-up helicopter and related expenses. Other savings include reductions in travel, telephone services and overtime and delayed equipment purchases for the June recruit class.
The fire department will increase staffing levels over last year’s mark with the addition of 29 firefighters who finished training last December. The sworn vacancies will be trimmed from 54 last June to about 42 this June.
Chief Greg Frederick will achieve most of the $779,000 in spending reductions by reducing unscheduled overtime through changes in deployment. All fire houses will remain open and all fire trucks will continue in operation, Frederick said.
Highlights of budget-balancing plan
- No tax increase or employee layoffs
- Protects public safety agencies, which shoulder smallest percentage cuts (1.1 percent)
- Reduces spending in other departments by an average of 3 percent
- Maintains all funded public safety training classes
- Continues hiring freeze for non-sworn positions continues across government
- Reduces spending for travel, office supplies, miscellaneous purchases
- Closes five outdoor swimming pools
- Sells back-up police helicopter
- Reduces salt purchases for roads and streets due to mild winter
- Captures $662,400 in additional agency receipts
- Pares capital spending by $688,500 through cutbacks in new sidewalks, downtown signage, trees, studies and other items
- Requires 480 employees who use take-home vehicles for off-duty jobs to pay $60 a month for gasoline reimbursement; mayor, directors will pay $30 a month in addition to income taxes for use
Spending Reductions by Departments and Agencies