Lexington leaders are still working on a plan to spend surplus funds. There's a lot more money than they first anticipated. Council members first considered setting aside specific amounts for each member...who would then decide how it's spent. After dropping that idea, Council decided to pool the money and prioritize projects. Tuesday, the Budget and Finance Committee briefly reviewed dozens of proposals submitted by council members and the mayor.
But, as those spending priorities were discussed, member Harry Clarke worried the debate could turn negative and divisive.
“I want to be sure that it’s not a complete division of council requests, administrative requests, because the last time I looked, we’re pretty much on the same team,” said Clarke.
Members of the Budget Committee Tuesday considered nearly fifty projects. Several council members want money spent on park improvements, but Parks Director Jerry Hancock says there's more need than dollars.
“This will do a lot of projects that need to be done, but it still leaves a great deal more work to be done. Our CIP every year, our capital improvement project list is five to seven to eight million dollars. I’m not sure what the numbers are here today, but I think they will be a few hundred thousand dollars, which is a very good start for a lot of things. It’s a good beginning and we’re happy to have the help from Council,” said Hancock.
The team will also have a lot more money to work with. At first, it was drawing up plans for two-million dollars in unspent funds. Now, Finance Commissioner Bill Omara says members could have ten million dollars to spend on a lot of deferred projects.
“We had a confluence of a lot of things that went right for the city of Lexington. We were slightly above budget in revenue and we actually had less personnel cost and less operating cost than budget,” added Omara.
There's talk of spending the money on recreational facilities located in Lexington's residential neighborhoods. Up to now, member Kevin Stinnett says the council has focused on surplus spending that's benefited all of Lexington.
“Putting money in health care to keep rates lower, that’s that one million from f-y 12, ending brownouts, buying a fire engine when we needed it, addressing street lights, which was a public safety issue across our community,” explained Stinnett.
Now, Stinnett and other members argue it’s time to invest in Lexington's neighborhoods. Many of those projects were deferred when the city ran short of funds during the recession.