March 26, 2023

Kentucky’s largest city regaining economic momentum

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer told the Metro Council that Kentucky’s largest city is regaining the momentum it had before the COVID-19 pandemic as he presented a $986 million budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

That spending plan was designed with the more than $430 million the city is set to receive in American Rescue Plan funding. However, none of that money was put into the budget because Fischer said the federal government is still working on how communities can use that funding.

“When the guidelines are clear, my team will work with the Metro Council to determine the best way to leverage this highly unique opportunity,” Fischer said in his prepared remarks. “And take ideas we once reserved for some day and turn them into reality now.”

City officials are working to establish a Louisville Accelerator Team that will bring together the business community, non-profit groups, civic foundations, faith leaders and other stakeholders to determine how the city should expend those one-time funds.

Last year, the Metro Council approved a $1 billion budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year that included $113 million in CARES Act funding. In 2018-19, the city’s budget was $877 million.

The city’s fiscal year starts July 1.

The mayor said the budget proposal helps address some of the economic inequity issues that have become more prevalent during the pandemic. One such initiative is the elimination of fines for overdue books and materials from the Louisville Free Public Library. Fischer said research indicated those fines hindered young people and minority communities from accessing the library system’s resources.

The proposed budget also calls for a substantial increase in violence prevention programs, including $5 million for diversion programs. That is in response to individuals protesting the death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot by police officers trying to execute a search warrant. Those protestors called for the city to re-evaluate how it polices the community.

“Some situations should have a social service response, rather than law enforcement, particularly when dealing with people who are struggling with homelessness, mental health challenges or substance use,” the mayor said.

The budget also funds the new Civilian Review and Accountability Board, Office of Inspector General and initiatives to increase diversity in public safety hiring practices.

Equity also must take place in economic development activities, the mayor said. He noted that the city’s payroll taxes have been essentially flat during the pandemic. While that can be considered a good sign overall since city officials expected a decrease, a closer look found that some higher earners were doing better than they were before the crisis started.

“Real economic success means a recovery for everyone across the income spectrum,” Fischer said in his prepared remarks. “Our core business clusters must thrive for us to reach that goal. And we must align and build our digital workforce skills to accelerate our growth.”

This article was originally posted on Kentucky’s largest city regaining economic momentum

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