Louisville’s police and fire unions are watching closely as the city decides how to dole out its extra $4 million.
The unexpected pot of money, from the fiscal year that ended in June, is a one-time surplus — but both unions still hope their members get a chunk of the money through allocations to Louisville Metro Police and Louisville Fire.
“Public safety is a core service that city government should be providing, not reducing,” Brian O’Neill, president of the Louisville Professional Firefighters Local #345 wrote on Facebook. “… The community has already been reaping the damages caused by the reduction in public safety, let’s stop the bleeding before it gets worse.”
O’Neill wants to see the money go toward reopening the fire company, Engine 11, that closed after budget cuts earlier this year. That would mean restoring at least some of the department’s five cut firefighter positions, which he acknowledged could be “problematic” with a one-time cash flow.
Nicolai Jilek, the president of the union representing LMPD officers, meanwhile, was less specific about how he suggests they city spend the surplus. He said his Fraternal Order of Police lodge members are “actually excited” to see $2.66 million in unused police budget money.
That $2.66 million is how much LMPD’s actual general fund budget differed from the projected fiscal year 2018-19 amount. It is one of several city agencies to see a surplus, which are then used to help balance budgets of other agencies with deficits. ADVERTISING
In total, after those transfers between agencies, the city has $1.9 million more than budgeted — roughly half of the overall $4 million that the city can now spend or save.
“This is $2.66 million that has already been duly allocated by the council to be spent for the police department,” Jilek said. “I look forward to working with Mayor Fischer in the days and weeks to come to find a creative way to use this money to address our critical recruitment and retention problem.”
Jilek declined to go into specifics about what the money might fund, but he said there are ways for a portion of that money to have “immediate impact.”
Louisville Metro Council will decide where to allocate the $4 million in an ordinance they are expected to discuss and vote on at a budget committee meeting on Dec. 5. If it passes, it could be considered by the full Metro Council at its final meeting of 2019, on Dec. 12. Get the On Kentucky Politics newsletter in your inbox.
Fischer has proposed putting $300,000 toward moving up a police recruit class scheduled for June by one month, sending $1 million to the rainy day fund and earmarking $2.7 million for future pension payments.
Members of the council’s budget committee appeared Thursday to be initially supportive of the proposals for sending money to the rainy day fund, future pension payments and public safety, but they could still make tweaks.
O’Neill said Monday he’d spoken to some council members about the potential for sending funds toward restoring some lost firefighter positions.
He said he understood this $4 million is a “one-time influx of money,” but said it led him to question whether more careful budgeting and a priority on public safety spending could have found money to prevent staffing reductions.
“This money isn’t the perfect fix for cut positions,” he said, “but it could go towards it. It would also require more careful budgeting into future years.”
Budget chairman Bill Hollander, D-9th District, however, called hiring employees with this surplus money from last fiscal year “not a responsible thing to do.”
“Using it to hire employees going forward is just not prudent,” he said. “Everyone would like to restore all of the employees that we lost as part of the budget cuts — including, certainly, the fire department — but we can’t do that with this surplus money.”
Where did the money come from?
The $4 million surplus — a relatively small percentage of the city’s more than $620 million budget — follows a budget season this spring that resulted in $25.5 million in cuts to city services, to make up for a rising pension bill from the state.
But the money itself is from the prior budget, which ended on June 30.
Since the end of fiscal year 2018-19, the city underwent an audit and closed the books, as it does at the end of each fiscal year.
On the revenue side, the city made $626 million, $4.6 million more than what was originally budgeted, Chief Financial Officer Daniel Frockt said at a budget committee meeting on Thursday.
That overage largely came from public service corporation property taxes, which can include utilities, airlines or railroads; a delay in issuing debt; and a spike in June in net profits that sharply reduced how much the city was under budget.
Those amounts were one-time factors that may not recur in future budgets, Frockt stressed.
The city also spent about $1.9 million less than it originally budgeted, which officials attribute to a hiring “frost” that began in the beginning of 2019 and further belt-tightening after a proposed tax hike failed in March.
Together, the $1.9 million in savings in expenses and $4.6 million in additional revenue is $6.5 million. Factor in capital budget balancing, grant write-offs and accounting adjustments, which totaled about $2.5 million, and the total in surplus funds comes out to $4 million.
Which departments were over and under budget?
The year-end ordinance filed Monday gives a brief overview of the amounts that city agencies were off from the budgets they had in fiscal year 2018-19.
After making transfers between departments, the city was left with $1.9 million extra, as factored into the calculation of the $4 million surplus.
Agencies with surpluses in their fiscal year 2018-19 budgets included:
- Mayor’s Office: $178,500
- Office of Internal Audit: $14,300
- Criminal Justice Commission: $87,900
- Louisville Metro Police Department: $2,662,100
- Emergency Services: $2,678,600
- Department of Corrections: $71,800
- Youth Detention Services: $433,600
- Office for Safe & Healthy Neighborhoods: $198,800
- Economic Development: $177,800
- Codes & Regulations: $11,100
- Human Relations Commission: $3,700
- Office of Resilience & Community Services: $32,800
- Office of Performance Improvement: $83,600
- Jefferson County Clerk: $844,000
- Commonwealth Attorney: $145,100
- Coroner: $7,300
Agencies with deficits in their budgets included:
- Office of Facilities & Fleet Management: $430,800
- Louisville Fire: $1,464,700
- Public Works & Assets: $846,500
- Metro Animal Services: $243,900
- Public Health & Wellness: $188,100
- Parks & Recreation: $1,371,900
- Louisville Zoo: $1,146,300
- Other statutory obligations: $29,700
Some agency leaders are expected to be present at the Dec. 5 budget committee meeting to speak to the reasons behind the differences in their budgets and realities.