Lexington Mayor Jim Gray applauded the work of the Urban County Council in its deliberation of his proposed $323 million budget on Tuesday but declined to say if he would veto any changes council made to the budget.
"This is a very robust budget that addresses many of the city's needs," Gray said. "They have done a careful job, a very careful job of examining the budget and making changes to the budget that they felt appropriate."
On the chances of a veto, Gray said, "We are going to take the time to go back to the members of the administration who helped us create the budget and see if there is any adjustments that would be appropriate."
The Urban County Council gave the ordinance approving the budget its first reading at a Tuesday meeting and will take a final vote on the budget at 6 p.m. Thursday. Gray has 10 days after the Thursday vote to line-item veto any part of the budget. Gray's comments on Tuesday came after the first reading of the budget.
The council made only minor tweaks to Gray's budget. Those changes included increasing the raise for most city employees from 3 to 4 percent and increasing the minimum wage for city employees from the federal minimum of $7.25 to $8.20 an hour. Council also added $2.4 million for paving neighborhood streets, bringing the total spent in that category to $10 million.
Vice Mayor Steve Kay said he has not been told by Gray or members of his administration about any concerns that council has made to the budget. Typically, if there are issues, Gray will tell the council during the council's deliberations. The council has been discussing Gray's budget proposal for several months.
It takes nine members of council to override a mayoral veto.
The proposed budget includes $58 million in borrowing or debt, a substantial increase from the current year's bonding of $33.4 million. That $58 million included $22 million for the overhaul of the former Fayette County Courthouse and $11 million for Town Branch Commons, a linear downtown park that would connect the city's core to its trail system and the rural environment. The budget also includes money for 35 new positions — including 10 new police officers — and more than $3 million for social service programs such as grants to serve the homeless and $2.75 million for affordable housing and homeless services.
The budget also includes $1 million for Bluegrass Community and Technical College for a $24 million new science building, $250,000 for a parks' master plan and $150,000 to move a mid-century modern bank on South Broadway threatened by demolition.
The budget also includes $1.5 million in reserves for emergencies. That is in addition to more than $25.2 million the city has in an economic contingency fund.
The budget is for the fiscal year that begins July 1.