Lexington council votes to spend $10 million surplus

jmadden@herald-leader.comMarch 20, 2014 

Lexington Fayette Government Center

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The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council on Thursday unanimously agreed to spend a $10 million surplus from this year's budget.

Resolution 45 commits the city to spending the surplus on affordable housing and homeless initiatives, among other items. The surplus was created by $5 million in savings and $5 million in unanticipated revenue.

The Rev. Adam Jones, co-chairman of Building A United Inter-Faith Lexington through Direct-Action (BUILD), praised the council for passing the resolution as others held up a sign with 500 bricks drawn on it; each brick contained the signature of a Lexington resident who agreed with spending for affordable housing.

"We wanted to make sure that the council and mayor knew that it is a step in the right direction," Jones said. "However, the full resolution of the affordable housing resolution crisis must include an affordable housing trust fund with a dedicated revenue stream."

A council committee had set aside $3 million for affordable housing and $500,000 for homeless initiatives. The city plans to spend $2.9 million on body armor, Tasers and 65 police cruisers; $2.9 million on fire equipment, including thermal imaging devices and repairs to aging fire buildings; $2.5 million for three fire trucks and an ambulance; and about $535,000 on community corrections or the county jail.

Affordable housing has been a growing problem as the city has lost 28,000 apartments affordable to minimum-wage workers in 20 years, a recent report found. Also according to the report, by czb consultants, Lexington is losing 400 rental units each year to higher rents. The report, issued last month, recommended spending at least $3 million to $4 million a year to address the problem.

Greg Capillo, a representative from Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, said the lack of affordable housing in Lexington affects him, and it needs a secure fix, but "budget surpluses are not secure."

"As a young person who works a low-wage job, I'm personally in a precarious situation with a landlord who is not up to par, but I don't think I can get rent that's as affordable elsewhere," Capillo said.

It has not been decided how the affordable housing and homeless funds will be spent, but the council is to receive a detailed plan in coming months. Mayor Jim Gray said they must take one step at a time.

"Have a plan and work the plan," he said. "This is a significant first step. ... I trust, hope and believe the affordable housing advocates recognize what a big step this is. It's rare for a council to make this significant of an investment."

Justin Madden: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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