The Lexington council voted Thursday to approve a $358 million budget that includes money for 30 additional police officers, a 2 percent raise for most employees and no tax increases.
Mayor Jim Gray has said he does not plan to veto any changes the council made to the budget. In a statement last week, Gray said the budget outlines the government’s priorities.
“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.”
The council member to vote against the budget was at-large Councilman Richard Moloney. Moloney previously said he was concerned about the city’s spending as revenue projections show much slower growth in coming years.
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 the salaries of 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 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 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. A final 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 money for 30 additional police officers 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 officers in neighborhoods. It will take 60 police officers to staff a fourth sector, Gray has said.