Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said Thursday that he won’t veto any changes that the Urban County Council has made to his $358 million budget, which includes money for 30 new police officers, a 2 percent raise for most city employees and more than $11.7 million for new police, fire and jail equipment.
The Urban County Council gave its first reading of the budget Thursday and will take a final vote this Thursday.
Gray applauded the council for its work but cautioned that budgets for the next few years will be tight as the city’s revenues are expected to plateau after years of growth.
“Overall, the budget illustrates that we agree on key priorities: public safety, infrastructure, good jobs, and taking care of our most vulnerable citizens,” Gray said. “We need to be careful, however, because I expect slower growth next year. Therefore, while I don’t expect to use veto authority, I will be keeping a close watch on personnel expenses in particular, to be sure the government doesn’t overcommit. That also means that just like a good business we will continue to search for innovative ways to deliver quality services to our citizens, at the lowest cost.”
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The Urban County Council made few changes to Gray’s proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The council added nearly $500,000 to pay salaries for 12 new emergency medical technicians to staff a 12th ambulance, $4.5 million to build a connector road between Winburn Drive and Citation Boulevard and $350,000 for traffic improvements to the Beaumont interchange.
There are few big-ticket items in the proposed budget, which is a 3.5 percent increase from the current year’s budget of $345 million. Most of the additional projects that the council added to the budget will be paid for through borrowing and cuts to other programs. The total amount of borrowing in the proposed budget is $36 million.
The budget includes $750,000 that could be used for additional borrowing needed for a planned overhaul and expansion of the downtown convention center, operated by Lexington Center Corp. At Thursday’s Lexington Center Corp. board meeting, board members were told that a final cost estimate for the renovation will be completed by late December. The city agreed to give the project $10 million in the current-year budget.
The additional 30 police officers included in the proposed budget is the first step to creating a fourth police sector. Gray has said it will take the city several years of adding staff to make a fourth sector possible. Lexington police currently operate in three sectors. A fourth sector would put more police officers in neighborhoods. It will take 60 police officers to staff a fourth sector, Gray has said.