Lexington Mayor Jim Gray presented his $289 million dollar budget for fiscal year 2013 Tuesday afternoon. The plan includes no broad-based tax increases, but relies on a projected three percent growth in employee withholdings over the next year. The mayor’s speech focused largely on two themes: shared sacrifice and creating what he called “a great American city.”
Gray struck a cautiously optimistic tone as he touted projects like the new 21c Museum Hotel announced earlier in the day and the state dollars allocated for the Rupp Arena arts district.
"If anyone had questions about the importance and significance of investing in Rupp, to bring it up to the gold standard, they were answered by the economic activity surrounding the NCAA championship.
Gray’s budget calls for $1.25 million dollars in reallocated bond proceeds to match state money for the project. It also includes money for two new police classes and two new fire classes along with $125 thousand dollars for improvements to Corrections facilities. It would also increase police and fire pension funding to $48.2 million.
Among the more popular proposals among Urban County Council members: a 2% raise for the city’s non-union employees and money for neighborhood projects.
"I'm encouraged with the mayor's commitment to the non-sworn people who haven't had raises in several years. I'm encouraged to know there's money for parks, which we've been left behind there for many years, and money for street paving, [and] we all know how important that is," said council member Bill Farmer.
Funding for the downtown arts district, however, could require more of a balancing act.
"As long as we're making sure pubic safety, infrastructure, and quality of life come first, the Rupp project can work parallel with that," council member Kevin Stinnett said.
Vice Mayor Linda Gorton said she anticipates a good debate on the issue.
Gray’s budget does call for one fee increase. By upping the city’s Franchise Fee by three to four percent, he hopes to address underfunding of streetlights. Now it’s up the council to debate the merits of the mayor’s budget and pass their version by June 30th.