Fayette County and Lexington are in an enviable position this year: Thanks to conservative budgeting and careful management, there is a positive balance in the city's budget.
The Urban County Council, as the city's legislative body, has the job of deciding how that money will be spent. It has allocated about $8.3 million of a $12.5 million surplus for new ambulances, fire trucks, police cruisers and other capital improvements. Today the council will consider what to do with the remaining $4.2 million.
After several years of tight budgets, there are many contenders for the money. City infrastructure, neighborhood projects and a host of other needs wait in line.
It may be a tough sell with that long list but Mayor Jim Gray's proposal to use $2 million to create what he calls a Jobs Fund deserves the council's support. Briefly, the proposal is to target early-stage companies that have received federal and state grants to help them develop products they can bring to the market from cutting- edge research. The fund would provide loans, and some grants, to offer these entrepreneurs the final encouragement they need to bring their startups to Lexington, or keep them here. It is smart, targeted, innovative and aimed at the kind of job creators a city that's home to a research university should attract.
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It's been a few weeks since the council has talked much about allocating a portion of the surplus to each council member to distribute to projects within his or her constituency. An easier sale but a bad idea. Even though projects would have to be approved by the entire council, it is an approach to spending that's likely to end up scattering money around the community without creating much community-wide impact.
Most citizens live in one district, work in another, attend school, ride or walk on trails, golf, attend soccer and other games, ride the bus or trolley in, to and through many other districts. The council will serve them best by budgeting with the entire community in mind.