While other cities face layoffs, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer presents 'relatively better' budget

05/26/2011 03:12 PM

LOUISVILLE — While some of its sister cities across Kentucky face crippling deficits and potential employee layoffs, Louisville is adding some services in its latest budget.

Democratic Mayor Greg Fischer presented a budget to the city’s metro council today that includes furloughs for top brass but also includes more than $2 million in traffic repairs and more than $1 million in library upgrades.

Only non-union employees making more than $70,000 a year will be required to take a one week furlough. That will save $250,000.

Other employees while be asked, but not required to do the same. The mandatory furloughs are expected to affect 117,000 Metro Louisville employees, in all, Fischer said.

He said he preferred furloughing top city workers to implementing layoffs. Fischer also said he would take a pay cut as if he were being furloughed but would continue to work during it.

“If we can avoid layoffs by sharing the pain, we should,” Fischer told reporters.

Fischer’s budget is buoyed by several one-time payments and more than $7 million in revenue beyond what was projected in January. The additional money covered the $22 million deficit the city originally faced.

The city is also tapping $3.5 million in police-seized drug money and is saving $2.8 million on health costs by over-filling a health cost reserve account. Additionally, $3.3 million is being saved by the city being allowed to make the minimum contribution to the KFC Yum! Center that it owes.

Those breaks have allowed Fischer to add services, while places like Lexington cut public services and layoff employees. And the Kentucky Enquirer reports that Covington could layoff 25 employees if their budget differences aren’t met.

“Relatively speaking, we’re better off than other cities,” Fischer said.

Instead of heavy cutting, Fischer is actually adding services to the next fiscal year’s budget. He has proposed:

  • Using $250,000 to re-open all Louisville Public Libraries on Sunday
  • Spending an additional $500,000 to help design a new Southwest Regional Library.
  • Tapping $650,000 for upgrades at the Western and Fairdale libraries.
  • Budgeting $500,000 for a new text, phone and e-mail alert system to help notify residents about emergencies
  • Hiring 15 new Public Works employees, which would actually save $335,000 in overtime incurred by the current workforce.
  • And spending $400,000 to hire 4 new director positions, to be hired at $100,000 each. The four directors will be in charge of creating jobs and community relations in their four areas of expertise: sustainability, innovation, military affairs and globalization.

The new directors will share staff with current city departments, and Fischer said the city isn’t going to create new departments for the new directors.

Fischer said in order to overcome future deficits, the city needed the four new directors to help with economic advancement.

“It’s not responsible, in my opinion, to put our heads in the sand and cut, cut, cut,” Fischer said.

Fischer’s budget doesn’t allow for pay increases for any non-union employees, the second time in three years that will be the case.

The city will continue to have a $15 million “structural deficit” in future years unless it deals with its pension system and other areas, Fischer said.

“With the Rustbelt to the north of us losing lots of jobs and cities to the South of us having economic gains, it’s going to be a real interesting decade for us,” Fischer said.

You can see Pure Politics’ take on the Louisville budget below:

-Reporting by Kenny Colston

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