Fayette County

Lexington council adds $2.5 million, cuts nothing from mayor's budget for fiscal 2014

Jim Gray's
inauguration fund raised $48,250. Fines are possible for filing late.
Jim Gray's inauguration fund raised $48,250. Fines are possible for filing late.

The Urban County Council on Tuesday added $2.5 million to Mayor Jim Gray's proposed $296 million budget for the 2014 fiscal year, with the beneficiaries including the purchase of development rights program, park projects, streets and roads, and the Salvation Army.

The council ratified a general fund budget of $299 million after 81/2 hours of debate. Nothing was cut from the mayor's proposed budget. It will be put on the docket for a first reading at a June 18 council meeting. The budget has to be approved before the 2014 fiscal year starts on July 1.

Bill O'Mara, the city's commissioner of finance, said that there was a lot of pent-up demand on both sides for projects that require bonds to be issued and that a lot of attention was paid to parks and infrastructure. "That is understandable, coming out of this recession when we were in a neutral position and not able to address these things," he said.

The mayor proposed $15.7 million in bond projects; the council raised that total to $17.5 million.

The council also added about $885,000 in operating expenses.

"While we're never going to agree on everything, the budget they ratified shows the council and mayor are fairly closely aligned," said Jamie Emmons, the mayor's chief of staff.

Revenue for 2014 is expected to total $297.2 million, an increase of $2.7 million over fiscal 2013.

The city's four main sources of revenue are withholding taxes from people who work in Lexington, net profit taxes, insurance taxes and franchise fees.

A decision on whether to increase franchise fees on utility companies and send some of that money to the chronically underfunded street light fund was postponed until the August meeting of the council's Budget and Finance Committee.

Vice Mayor Linda Gorton said she thought it was a good budget.

"The mayor and the administration put into the budget the things they think need to be funded," she said. That included a pay increase for employees, money to fund two small area development plans and $1 million for purchase of development rights, or PDR, which are used to protect farmland.

The council increased the PDR amount — which is bonded — to $2 million, contingent on federal matching funds. That extra $1 million would add $70,400 in debt service.

"For $70,400, we get another $1 million. That is a good economic investment for the future," said council member Ed Lane, whose district includes most of Fayette County's rural land.

The council also added $60,000 for the Salvation Army to the $143,640 in the mayor's budget, $26,000 for the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center to give it a total of $85,505, $25,000 to resurface athletic courts at Coolavin Park, $50,000 for parking lot construction at the Charles Young Center and $147,000 to restore the fountain in Gratz Park donated by Kentucky author James Lane Allen during the 1930s.

The Berry Hill Skatepark got an additional $350,000. Council member George Myers said the design process would be completed this fall, and skatepark construction probably will begin next spring.

Also approved was a $75,000 bond to complete the playground at Masterson Station park; $150,000 for reconstruction of the Chevy Chase intersection of Fontaine Road, High Street, Euclid Avenue and Tates Creek Road; and $300,000 for the Southland Drive bike lane project.