LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville Metro Council members are close to a budget deal.
“I think it’s a good budget,” council president David James said. “I think that it’s a budget that not everybody is happy with, but that’s what makes it a good budget: it’s an issue of compromise and moving forward and trying to do what’s best for the city.”
James said he supports the spending plan a committee passed on Monday. The full council is slated to vote on it Thursday.
The budget includes new spending for public safety including more than $9 million to raise wages for police officers, firefighters and first responders.
James hopes the money will address the shortage of officers in the city.
“Competing local governments pay much better than we do and so it’s important that we are competitive in the markets so we can have the best talent in Louisville,” James said.
Council members also plan to invest more in other crime prevention technology, all as gun violence rises in the city.
The most recent case of gun violence in Louisville happened just outside J. Alexander’s Restaurant near Oxmoor Mall when two people suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
The shooting happened in councilwoman Marilyn Parker’s district.
“It was very disturbing and it’s just an ongoing problem,” Parker said. “My phone is blowing up about every 12 to 24 hours with another shooting.”
Parker said she will probably vote for the budget but she wishes the council would do more.
“We need more police so whatever it takes to give them what they need to do their job,” Parker said.
Activists have called for funding cuts to the police department in favor of other community programs, but that won’t happen this year.
James said the idea doesn’t make much sense.
“I don’t look at it as an either/or issue,” James said. “I look it as we are going to fully fund the police department and make sure they have everything they need and then we’re going to fund these other programs and make sure they have everything they need.
“Defunding the police department is not going to reduce crime.”
And the city is working on other programs to address the root causes of crime as well as a program to improve relations between the community and police.
“I think they’re extremely important,” James said. “Again, the police would readily acknowledge they can’t arrest their way out of our problems and so that means we have to have other ideas to try and deal with that.”
City leaders are actively negotiating a new contract with the union representing Louisville Metro Police Department officers, so it’s not clear yet just how much pay will increase. The current contract ends at the end of the month.