All 15 Urban County Council members will get more than $266,000 to spend on projects in coming months.
The Urban County Council voted 8-7 Thursday to divvy up $4 million for council projects out of a $7 million surplus from the fiscal year that ended June 30.
In addition to splitting the $4 million, the council voted to allocate the remaining $3 million for citywide projects.
Of that $3 million, some will be used for structural repairs to a city-owned parking garage attached to city hall ($1.7 million), to replace basketball courts, walking trails and other park infrastructure at Idle Hour Park ($650,000), allocated to four social services programs ($280,000) and to pay for snow removal equipment for sidewalks ($76,000).
Thursday's votes were preliminary. The council will take final votes in coming weeks.
Much of the discussion during Thursday centered on whether to split the entire $7 million among the 15 council members or fund some projects proposed by Mayor Jim Gray's administration.
Eventually, the council decided to reduce the amount that would be split among council members to $4 million, which would mean each would get $266,666 to spend.
But many opposed the idea, saying decisions on how tax dollars are spent should be vetted and made in the open.
"I think it sends the wrong message to the public on how we make decisions," said Councilman Bill Farmer. He and others argued that instead of dividing a portion of the money evenly among council members, council members should argue the merits of the dozens of requests they received for funding.
In total, the council received $23 million in requests.
Councilman Fred Brown originally proposed divvying the $7 million among the 12 council districts, leaving out the three at-large members. He argued that by dividing the money equally, every council member would have money to spend in his or her district. In the past when the council voted on projects, some council members were left out because their lists of projects were considered last.
"I think each council member does know what their needs are," Brown said.
The council agreed that the at-large members would be included in the allocations.
It's not clear how the council will track how each council member spends the $266,666.
The council ultimately voted 8-7 to divide the $4 million. Those who voted to split the money evenly were Fred Brown, James Brown, Jake Gibbs, Peggy Henson, Russ Hensley, Jennifer Mossotti, Angela Evans and Kevin Stinnett. Voted against were Farmer, Vice Mayor Steve Kay, Richard Moloney, Shevawn Akers, Susan Lamb, Jennifer Scutchfield and Amanda Bledsoe.