Fischer unveils 2011-2012 budget

Seated at the head of a massive conference table outside of his office in Metro Hall, Mayor Greg Fischer briefed assembled members of the press on the city’s fiscal year 2011-2012 budget, detailing “creative” ways in which his administration intends to plug a projected $22.5 million fiscal hole, as well as unveiling new investment initiatives and details of a $712 million spending plan.

Highlights, cuts and more, after the jump…

Citing a “structural imbalance” within the city’s revenue stream, which suffers from an average annual deficit of roughly $15 million, Fischer outlined several cost-saving measures:

  • Mandatory five-day furloughs for 117 non-union city employees earning more than $70,000 a year, with a net savings of $250,000. Those earning below the$70,000 threshold and belonging to a union will be given the option of voluntary furloughs, saving upwards of $ 1 million. Fischer says he has been negotiating with union leaders since March, and received their input “in an unprecedented way.”
  • Utilizing $3.5 million in police-seized drug monies, which according to Jefferson County Attorney Pat Mulvihill has been sitting in an account gaining minimal interest for nearly five years, and represents seizures from approximately 9,000 closed drug cases. (A special thanks to all of the meth labs and crack dens who made this possible) When asked if he knew which drugs represented the bulk of the seized funds, Fischer said he had no idea.
  • Savings of $2.8 million in health care costs for city employees due to “an adequate safety reserve.”
  • Swapping $1.3 million out in Metro Council Capital Infrastructure Funds (a larger pool of which remains interestingly unspent) with $1.3 million in Municipal Aid Project road funds. When pressed about whether he would veto any budgets passed by Metro Council that approve more money for their general funds than his budget does, Fischer says he hasn’t taken “an extreme position either way.”
  • $3.3 million from the Louisville Arena Authority’s annual payment ot the city per the terms of its agreement with the city (despite apparently not paying its taxes to the city)
  • $1 million from the Office of Management and Budget due largely to the elimination of 81 business management positions and a consolidation of the remaining positions.
  • A projected $3 million from the eventual sale of surplus city property.

Fischer’s budget also manages to avoid significant layoffs, saying that eight positions in Housing and Human Services will be eliminated, as well as an unspecified amount of positions as Louisville Metro Animal Services, which is currently in an operational state of flux pending its possible privatization.

By far, the largest chunk of the budget — 57 percent — goes toward public protection (e.g. police, fire, EMS, etc.). This represents a 3 percent decrease from former Mayor Jerry Abramson’s 2010-2011 budget, which (relatively speaking) allocated 60 percent for such services. The funds will be used to replace 20 retiring LMPD officers with a class of new recruits, as well as a new class of 30 firefighters.

Here’s a pie chart that helps put it in perspective:

Beyond public protection, Fischer said “it’s not responsible to bury our heads in the sand and just cut, cut, cut” existing programs and neglect new initiatives, which are as follows:

  • $1.4 million for libraries, including $250,000 to open libraries on Sunday, as well as $500,000 to design a new Southwest Library.
  • $500,000 to improve the city’s emergency alert systems.
  • $100,000 for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which has only received $1 million from the city in the last five years and will be equally matched by private dollars.
  • $4.9 million for various nonprofits, including arts groups, community ministries and social service providers.
  • $300,000 for new city employee training programs to improve efficiency within Metro government.
  • $300,000 in tuition reimbursement in support of the 55,000 Degrees Initiative to shore up college degree attainment.
  • $867,800 for bike lanes and sidewalks on LaGrange Road.
  • $235,00 for additional planning studies regarding the Louisville Loop bike and pedestrian path.
  • $540,000 to straighten the mangled intersection of Broadway and 18th Street/Dixie Highway.
  • $1,676,000 for the Smoketown revitalization study, which will in large part raze the extant Sheppard Square housing projects and replace it with mixed income federal housing units. Fischer said that the Smoketown study was one of five such studies to examine redvelopment in other depressed Louisville neighborhoods, including Shawnee and Portland.
  • $870,000 to synchronize traffic lights at the thuroughfares of Hurstborne parkway, Preston highway, Bardstown Road, Shelbyville Road and Dixie Highway.
  • $988,000 for bike lanes and pedestrian paths along River Road.
  • and much more.

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Finally, Fischer announced four new directorships — Director of Sustainability (to pursue energy efficiency and promote environmental sustainability); Director of Innovation (to, uh, innovate Louisville’s economic strengths); Director of Military Affairs (to better coordinate the pending expansion of Fort Knox); and a Director of Globalization (to tout Louisville’s as  a place to do business to people who speak different languages than we do) — each of whom will receive an approximate annual salary of $100,000. Details at this time are scarce, but expect more to surface as the Metro Council debates the finer points of the budget over the next month.

Click here to read the full 272 page budget proposal (PDF).

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