The Lexington council made minor changes Tuesday to Mayor Jim Gray's proposed $370.3 million budget, including adding money for a kennel for police dogs and nearly $560,000 for sidewalks on Old Todds Road.
Gray's eighth and final budget was lean compared to prior years as much of the city's discretionary funding went to an increase in pension payments to the state.
Some of the big ticket items included in Gray's proposed budget are 25 new fire fighters, 24 of whom are needed to staff a new fire station in Masterson Station; a 2 percent pay increase for most city employees; and up to $44.4 million in borrowing, including up to $20 million in additional borrowing for an expansion of the Lexington Convention Center.
The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council is expected to give its first reading to the budget on Thursday. The final vote will be June 12. The budget is for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Some of the changes made by the council Tuesday and on May 24 include:
- $593,000 for a new dog kennel for the police K-9 unit;
- $560,000 for the design and construction of a sidewalk on Old Todds Road from Woodhill Drive to Palumbo Drive;
- $116,000 for bike lanes on Alexandria, Malibu, Pasadena and Redding roads;
- $74,000 for an associate traffic engineer for neighborhood streets;
- $30,000 for workforce development grants that had been discontinued in Gray's proposed budget;
- $60,000 for a new deputy coroner due to an increase in overdose deaths;
- $20,000 for a quiet study for a noisy Norfolk Southern railroad crossings at Kearney, Spurr and Greendale roads;
- $25,000 for a new school zone and flashing beacons at North Limestone between Barr and Pleasant Stone.
Much of the additional funding was paid for using excess funds from other pots of money, including $1.3 million that was in an account for the public parking corporation, which no longer exists now that Lexpark oversees public parking. The council also decreased funding in other areas to pay for the new projects.
The $560,000 for the design and construction of the Old Todds Road sidewalk project will be funded by selling bonds. Debt service for that project will be $15,000 for the first year and $45,000 in coming years.
Councilman Preston Worley said other sections of the Old Todds Road sidewalk are already in the works. The portion from Woodhill to Palumbo is a key connection along Old Todds Road.
Families from the Woodhill neighborhood walk Old Todds Road to get to the Lexington Public Library branch on Blake James Drive, he said.
"Many kids in that area go to that library because it's their only Internet access," Worley said. "It's also a public safety concern."
The council voted 9-6 to approve the project. Council members who voted against the project said they want the sidewalks but are concerned about borrowing money to pay for it.
The city's dog kennel has been in disrepair for years, said Sally Hamilton, the city's chief administration officer, during a May 24 budget discussion. The city has delayed the project for years.
"The conditions are not acceptable," Hamilton said. "These are not pets. They are working for the public."
The nearly $600,000 the council allocated will be added to approximately $600,000 the city already set aside for the project, bringing the total price to a little under $1.2 million.
A decision about funding several other projects was delayed until the fall, when the city will know if it has any surplus funds for the fiscal year that ends June 30. Those projects included a $125,000 traffic safety study of the Georgetown Road corridor and another $500,000 for affordable housing projects.
"Everyone has significant projects in their districts," said Councilwoman Jennifer Mossotti. "I don't want to rob Peter to pay Paul."
The city has money socked away in various accounts, but must keep enough money in its reserve accounts to protect its bond rating, said Councilman Kevin Stinnett, the longtime chairman of the council's budget committee. The city's bond rating determines how much it must pay to borrow money.
Interest rates are set to get up in June, Stinnett said.
Debt payments make up 11 percent of the city's budget. The goal is to keep debt service below 10 percent of the city's total revenue.