Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Louisville’s $63 Million Dollar “Rainy Day” Fund

$63 million dollars. That’s what Louisville, a third tier city, has squirreled away in its “rainy day” fund. “Mayor for Life” Jerry Abramson has proposed cutting $3.4 million dollars from the budget, which Abramson claims has a $20 million shortfall. Gone will general road maintenance, and community programs, especially those aimed at children. Community centers and libraries will be closed one day a week, and Otter Creek Park will be closed just to name a very few.

$63 million dollars. With that, Metro employees wouldn’t be facing mandatory unpaid time off or layoffs. Critical city unions, such as the police and firefighters, wouldn’t be looking at not only forgoing overdue pay increases (nominal as they are), but also possible pay cuts as well. And then there’s the issue of overtime pay the firefighters are owed by the City.

$63 million dollars. That’s three times the average amount that second tier cities, such as Nashville, Toledo, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis, keep in reserve. Nashville and Cincinnati have $15 million and $13 million respectively in their “rainy day funds”, and they are considering using a portion to avoid layoffs. Toledo, which is facing a $10 million deficit, has $6.4 million dollars in its “rainy day” fund. For now, their mayor, Carty Feinbeiner, has opted not to use those funds yet. Instead, he has been concentrating on cutting services. Buffalo, New York has $35 million dollars stashed away as a buffer in its “rainy day” fund according to the city’s financial controller, Janet Penksa.

$63 million dollars. Not a penny of that will be spent on either government services or to assist government employees. Abramson insist that this money is for “emergencies” only. In case he hasn’t heard, we are in a recession. We’ve been in a recession since December of 2007 (and we didn’t need some government accounting or economic office to tell us that either). Companies are closing. Income is being cut. Services are being reduced or eliminated. People are losing their jobs. I think that qualifies as an “emergency” don’t you? Instead, the mayor is worried that using any portion of the fund could jeopardize the city’s bond rating. In other words, it could jeopardize Jerry’s intended legacy, which is the oft-attempted revitalization of downtown Louisville. With all the cutbacks and layoffs, Abramson hasn’t cut back one thin dime on his downtown pet projects and he doesn’t intend to unless forced, which bring us to our last point.

$63 million dollars. That’s our money, paid for by people like you and me through our taxes. This isn’t “King” Abramson’s private piggy bank. If Jerry won’t let lose of the money for the benefit of our metro employees and community at large, will our Louisville Metro Soviet (formerly known as the Louisville Metro Council) force his hand? Long a rubber stamp (and hence the name), the Metro Soviet has shown little backbone when it has come to challenging the mayor’s directives. Now, given the crisis we’re facing, would be time for (as they used to say) “all good men---and women---to come to the aid of their country”, or in this case, their community.

It’s our money, so what are we going to do about it? Should the needs of people come first or should it be Abramson’s downtown legacy? From where I stand, it’s raining hard.

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