Metro Council overwhelmingly passes budget slashing funds to city services

Metro Council approves operating budget with major cuts to city services

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - After months of conversations and conciliations regarding how to deal with Louisville’s $32 million budget shortfall, Metro Council members had a final say Tuesday night.

By a vote of 24 to 1, councilmembers overwhelmingly approved the budget passed by the committee last week. Councilwoman Madonna Flood (D-District 24) was the sole person to vote against the budget. Councilman James Peden (R-District 23) was not present for the vote.

Since the council voted to not raise taxes in March, they had to cut funding to several government groups to balance the budget -- including public safety. A series of public meetings followed examining the budgets of the Louisville Zoo, libraries, police, fire and EMS, and the Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods.

The budget passed by the council Tuesday night lessens the cuts to public safety, including the Louisville Metro Police Department and Louisville Fire, but doesn’t shield those agencies completely.

A LMPD recruiting class the mayor proposed cutting in June will remain cut. However, a spring class was moved up from March to February in this budget in an effort to get new officers on the streets sooner.

Special operations and hazmat response team training for Jefferson County Fire was also funded, but the Louisville Fire Grade Lane station will still likely close.

Bottom line: emergency response times will be longer and less officers will be on Louisville streets.

The budget strips about $1 million from the Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods, which runs the “interrupters” program.

It also surrenders Youth Detention Services to the state, saving the metro more than $1.2 million. Funding would run through the end of the year until an agreement is reached for the state to take over operations.

PREVIOUS STORIES

The budget allocates $1.4 million to public libraries, allowing the facilities to keep their current hours. It also funds a library in Middletown, as long as the City of Middletown or a third party provides a location for the library. This must be done no later than December 31, 2019.

While the budget does not reopen any pools for this summer, it does put $600,000 towards reopening Algonquin and Sun Valley Pools in summer 2020 and capital funds to repair the pools.

Weekly recycling services and seasonal yard waste collection are funded in this budget.

While Councilman Bill Hollander (D-District 9) said he thinks this budget improves on what Mayor Greg Fischer proposed, he said it isn’t ideal.

“We will be looking at additional cuts next year,” Hollander said, a reference to the total $65 million shortfall the city faces over the next two years. “Things we save tonight will be on the chopping block again next year.”

The council will leave it up to each agency as to how to handle its funding cuts. It’s likely people will lose jobs, but an exact number of people who will be affected is not known.

“There are deep cuts in the budget,” Hollander said. “People will be affected, not only who work for Metro Government but who are served by those people.”

Before the vote Thursday, several organizations made a last ditch effort to save funding to their programs, including the Living Room, which helps people in crisis 24/7, including those with mental illness.

In the end, the council did not move to save that organization’s funding, or amend the budget passed by the committee in any way. There was very little debate or discussion before the vote.

Fischer has until July 1 to sign the budget or veto it. If he vetoes it, the council can override that veto with a two-thirds vote.

REACTION TO THE BUDGET VOTE

The mayor issued a statement shortly after the vote, saying the budget “is not what a thriving city like ours deserves, and it is not the budget that any of us want.”

He went on to point out the areas of the approved budget with which he does not agree:

"Though the Council approved 99.5% of the budget I proposed, and I do appreciate that, I would not be doing my job if I did not share with you my concerns about their changes, including that their choices may deepen inequities in our community.

  • "While I understand and share the desire to keep our library hours the same — and I love our libraries — Council does that by closing Youth Detention Services, before we can work out a solution with the State to keep our most vulnerable youth near their families and their schools.
  • "The desire to keep the Middletown library is understandable, but Council has done that with deep cuts to our violence prevention efforts.
  • "And Council has increased their neighborhood spending accounts by cutting the offices that work to create economic development throughout our city, and the office that makes Metro Government more efficient.

“While I disagree with these choices, my team will move forward, balance the budget and find ways to implement them with the least amount of pain to our residents. My thanks go to Budget Chair Bill Hollander for his leadership throughout this process.”

Fischer ended by saying the city needs to focus on finding new revenue to offset further cuts due to the rising pension obligation. Here’s a video of his statement:

My statement on the Metro Council vote on the budget: Metro Council has approved a budget that reflects the difficult realities caused by our increasing state pension obligation. This increasing obligation is not the fault of Metro Council nor my office; however, when faced with the choice to raise revenue to prevent reductions in services to our citizens, Metro Council voted against new revenue. This budget is not what a thriving city like ours deserves, and it is not the budget that any of us want. Because we already have a lean government, there were no easy decisions. I proposed a balanced budget that prioritized public safety and basic city services, while working to minimize the pain on our most vulnerable citizens. Though the Council approved 99.5% of the budget I proposed, and I do appreciate that, I would not be doing my job if I did not share with you my concerns about their changes, including that their choices may deepen inequities in our community. · While I understand and share the desire to keep our library hours the same — and I love our libraries — Council does that by closing Youth Detention Services, before we can work out a solution with the State to keep our most vulnerable youth near their families and their schools. · The desire to keep the Middletown library is understandable, but Council has done that with deep cuts to our violence prevention efforts. · And Council has increased their neighborhood spending accounts by cutting the offices that work to create economic development throughout our city, and the office that makes Metro Government more efficient. While I disagree with these choices, my team will move forward, balance the budget and find ways to implement them with the least amount of pain to our residents. My thanks go to Budget Chair Bill Hollander for his leadership throughout this process. With our pension costs continuing to increase over the coming years, more cuts will keep coming. I don’t like it, but that’s reality. I understand that many people do not want to raise taxes, but no one likes service cuts either. We must face the reality that we must have new revenue if we want to continue to pursue greatness for our city. I pledge to continue to work with the State and our Metro Council to find new revenue, and to keep fighting to make sure Louisville has the services it needs to be the thriving, compassionate city that we all deserve.

Posted by Mayor Greg Fischer on Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Here are responses from numerous Metro Council members:

“Our task was to appropriate available funds in a way which would best serve the public, and agree on a budget which would draw the most support on the Council and be signed by the Mayor. The job was much more difficult this year because of our dramatically higher pension costs, which are one part of the budget we cannot reduce. The result is a budget that makes cuts in nearly every department and many services provided to Louisville residents. We have tried to minimize those cuts as much as possible, but they remain very deep. Unfortunately, the pension costs will rise again next year and for several years after that, so even deeper cuts will be coming unless we find new revenue.”
Councilman Bill Hollander, Chair of the Budget Committee, (D) District 9
“I am pleased that despite increasing expenses, the Council was able to come together on a budget that moves the conversation from crisis to correction. In a budget year where our expenses grew more than our revenue, we were forced to look more closely at how we are spending taxpayer dollars. This process allowed us to ask some very difficult questions, examine how some programs were being run, and to prioritize which services and amenities the citizens expect. I am proud of the fact that we moved the police recruit class forward and offered additional support to new recruits, we were able to restore funding for 2 pools, restore regular library hours and reopen a library. This budget maintains our plans for addressing the paving needs of our streets, the health needs of our citizens and the maintenance needs of our buildings.”
Councilman Kevin Kramer, Vice Chair of the Budget Committee, (R) District 11
“I want to thank the members of our Budget Committee for reviewing and recommending one of the most challenging budgets we have approved. This time around I believe we engaged the people we serve to ask them their thoughts on moving forward. While we have a balanced budget, it came with a cost of cutting services while maintaining public safety. This is not a one-time thing. In the years ahead, we must give serious consideration to finding new revenues. We must also stress to the lawmakers in Frankfort that the current situation with the pension is not acceptable. If left unchanged there will tougher cuts ahead. It’s time to work together to bring a realistic approach to solving the pension crisis and not placed on the backs of local governments and employees."
President David James, (D) District 6
“We have gone through a thorough process which has culminated in us reaching this balanced budget, but it has not been without making difficult choices and painful cuts to our services that the residents of Louisville Metro have come to depend on and enjoy. Unfortunately, we will have to continue to cut services well beyond this year into the distant future unless new revenue is provided, or our pension obligations are lessened by Frankfort.”
Councilman Pat Mulvihill, President Pro Tem, Chair of the Majority Caucus, (D) District 10
“This was a tough budget to vote for because of its impact on so many people. I am glad that we were able to find funding to continue to help Dare to Care because so many are in need. I also want everyone to know, I will be paying very close attention in advocating for the reopening of the Norton Camp Taylor pool next year. We need to get all our pools reopened as pools for the community not splash parks. It is what I will be advocating for because we need to make sure we keep the needs of our young people in mind.
Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, (D) District 2
“The Mayor presented his budget plan, the Community responded, and we rolled up our sleeves doing the work we were elected to do. No one got everything they wanted and not everything got funded. I voted for the budget because it maintained a focus on public safety by putting LMPD trained Officers on the street sooner than expected and we continued to fund affordable housing in addition to the $41 million provided during the past four years. We responded to the many concerns related to homelessness by providing $1 million for sheltering and services. This will help provide for pets, partners and possessions in homeless circumstances. Complex challenges require common sense solutions and it is our responsibility to provide safer neighborhoods and better services for all. This includes basic needs for food, clothing and shelter. And yes, we fought for swimming pools and libraries to make sure no one gets left behind. Not our children, not our seniors, not anyone. There’s room for everyone to help our community be as good as we say it is. We need businesses, healthcare, education, nonprofit and interfaith communities to reimagine their roles and create common sense solutions. Together – we hold the answer. We can do this, YES we can!”
Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith, (D) District 4
“Serving on the Budget Committee and working diligently with all of my colleagues to balance a budget with very limited resources proved to be an extraordinary lesson in fiscal reality and responsibility. In the end, we put dollars into the parts of our community where they will have the most impact, while minimizing draconian cuts to public safety and infrastructure. This budget is one for the history books.”
Councilwoman Paula McCraney, (D) District 7
“Many of the decisions made within this budget were focused on right-sizing departments and cutting programs that failed to deliver results. This budget reflects the priorities of the full community and is not focused on punishing groups but instead supporting those most in need. I am particularly proud of our investment in the Centerstone Crisis Line, Dare to Care Food Bank as well as increased spending on paving, parks and libraries.”
Councilman Scott Reed, (R) District 16
“The Metro Council was able to restore many of the services and projects that were cut in the Mayor’s original presentation. Rather than taking the easy way out, members of the Metro Council dug deep into the budget, listening to the testimony of department heads as well as ideas generated by residents, we were able to eliminate waste while also increasing investment in critical services such as police, paving and our libraries. This budget better serves the people of Louisville Metro and paves the way for even more savings in the next fiscal year.”
Councilwoman Marilyn Parker, (R) District 18
“Two months ago, members of the Louisville Metro Council rejected the calls by Mayor Fischer and others to triple the insurance tax for residents of Louisville Metro. We promised that we could find efficiencies and cuts to offset increasing operational costs and I am proud to say that we achieved many of those goals. I am particularly proud of restoring library hours, saving the Middletown Library, funding Dare to Care as well as addressing our need for a new police headquarters and location for LMPD’s 8th Division.”
Councilman Anthony Piagentini, (R) District 19

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