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.
- Metro Council to vote on controversial city budget Tuesday night
- Committee unanimously passes amended budget, decision moves to Metro Council
- Mayor Fischer’s new budget proposal would cut more than 300 city jobs
- Proposed budget cuts to Louisville Fire would increase response times
- 4 pools will not open this summer, city employees could see increase in health premiums
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.
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:
Here are responses from numerous Metro Council members: