Lexington Mayor Jim Gray presented his $370 million budget recommendations Tuesday for consideration by the urban county council. One significant expense is still being debated by lawmakers and the governor in Frankfort.
Mayor Gray says the city government has ten million dollars set aside to cover anticipated additional pension costs. Governor Bevin has vetoed a measure aimed at providing some phase-in relief for local governments. Gray told council members he hopes that the matter can be worked out. “Like mayors of cities across Kentucky I hope the legislators and the governor can work together later this week to give final passage to a phase in bill,” said Gray
Final passage of a bill that calls for a phase-in would result in a $3 million dollar cost to Lexington government. The mayor’s spending recommendations also include money for 25 new positions in the fire department, borrowing to support the start of construction this summer on a new convention center, and a 2% cost of living raise for city employees outside of fire and police.
More than half of the spending outlined in Lexington Mayor Jim Gray’s latest budget goes to cover public safety expenses.
Lexington city government has worked with a number of agencies including faith groups to address youth violence. Council Member Angela Evans says creative measures are being examined to tackle a pressing community issue. “They’re actually going into correctional facilities to talk to young men there to see what would have changed your mind,” noted Evans.
Mayor Gray’s budget for the upcoming year doesn’t call for additional police officers, but does include money for new vehicles and additional computerized equipment. In his budget speech, Gray said One Lexington Director Laura Hatfield met with 80 members of the community to identify resources and gaps in services.
The spending plan also includes hundreds of thousands of dollars for workforce training, company recruitment, and infrastructure improvements.
City officials continue to finalize details with the University of Kentucky to trade portions of some streets near campus for commercial-ready land near I-75. Council Member Bill Farmer says the 200 acres may not feature traditional manufacturing. “I doubt factories, per se, will ever go there. I think some economic development will take place there that might take a different than what we are used to in the past. It’s like a savings account potentially,” said Farmer. “We’ll always have a place for something to go, rather than say no to it.”
The largest economic project in the mayor budget involves funding plans to supply $20 million to go toward the construction of a new convention center downtown. Gray calls it one of the largest public investments in Lexington since the building of Rupp Arena in the 1970’s.