On Thursday, June 22, the Metro Council passed the Operating and Capital Budgets for Fiscal Year 2017-2018. The Budget contains expenditures of approximately $855 million, of which $107 million will be spent on capital projects. This year, unlike previous ones, the Metro Council was afforded the opportunity to review the budget for an additional month. We used that time to hold six additional hours of hearings with departments as well as district specific meetings with each office.
The additional time also allowed members to investigate new ideas and proposals. As a result, the Council found two proposals for better addressing substance abuse and had the time to both investigate the programs as well as find the needed funds to support them.
The Republican members of the Metro Council continue to work together and pool their funds to help fix roads and improve parks more quickly. Rather than having small portions of a street paved, members of the caucus work together to save funds and get long stretches of streets taken care of. In total, Republican members of the Metro Council allocated 76% of all discretionary spending for paving/sidewalks with the remaining 24% going towards park improvements. Every dollar of discretionary funds allocated from the minority caucus as part of the FY18 Budget went towards capital projects.
Public Safety: Members of the Metro Council supported the proposal to add 16 sworn officers and 11 non-sworn police analysts. These additional officers will help bring LMPD closer to the level of officers to serve this community. The analysts will use newly installed tools like Shotspotter, cameras and license plate readers to review data and help track down persons endangering the safety of the people of our community.
One of the largest adjustments made by the Council was to prohibit the Mayor’s office from engaging in a lease for LMPD headquarters. It is our belief that LMPD does need a new or significantly renovated space. Leasing a building rather than owning it would have been a waste of taxpayer dollars. Our budget shifts the money associated with this project to developing a plan for a long term solution for police as well as funding additional resources for prosecutors, the Coroner and suburban fire departments.
Mental and Addiction Services: Understanding that much of our rising crime is related to drugs and the fact that just about every family has someone dealing with addiction, the Metro Council sought to find proposals for addressing this scourge on our community. Using the additional time allotted in this budget process, members were able to investigate an innovate drug diversion program called “Centerstone Living Room”. This programs allows Metro Police an alternative to incarceration and release of persons who are under the influence of drugs when arrested.
The second major investment funded by the Metro Council is $515,000 for the Volunteers of America Freedom House. These funds will be part of a $6 million program focused on helping mothers-to-be kick their addiction prior to childbirth and gain needed skills to help ensure a productive life and safe home for their children.
Continuing Our Progress on Deferred Maintenance: Last year the Metro Council increased the mayor’s budget for fixing streets through paving by 6 million to finally begin to address our paving deficit. This investment if made for 10 consecutive years would allow for all Metro Roads to reach a safe rating by the year 2025. Although the mayor failed to submit a budget to live up to this need, the Metro Council worked together to find the additional funding needed and again bring the total spent on fixing roads to $22.6 million.
In addition to addressing paving, the Metro Council also increased funding for sidewalk repair by nearly 250%, we also added 1 more mowing along right-of-ways such as Hurstbourne Parkway, Bardstown Road, Taylorsville Road and Westport Road.
Metro Parks: The Metro Council also maintained it’s commitment to one of our city’s best attractions, our parks.
- A final allotment of $125,000 in funding was added to the nearly $1.5 million construction project underway at AB Sawyer Park. By the end of fall 2017, AB Sawyer Park will have new walking trails, a picnic pavilion, playground and most importantly a much safer and better organized parking lot.
Northeast Regional Library Planning: Construction on the final regional library will begin later this fall, with completion expected in December 2018. The majority of the funding for the project has been secured through this budget, the awarding of state grants, and ongoing fundraising by the Library Foundation. The library, which will be located off Hurstbourne Parkway just north of the Shelby Campus and adjacent to the NE YMCA, will be part of more than $20 million in government investment in the area along Whipps Mill and Ormsby Station Roads. This new regional library will be approximately 40,000 square feet in size and will serve as a meeting space, educational center, and of course, a place for you to check out a book.
While the Mayor’s budget proposal did address some of our concerns, its lack of funding for failing infrastructure and addressing the drug epidemic as well as its lack of a plan for reducing crime made it clear that changes were needed. While I still have concerns regarding the wasteful spending proposed on projects such as the KyWired program I am glad we were able to increase spending on paving, moving rights-of-way, two new programs for addiction services, and other projects that are meant to fix some of our community’s long standing problems.