Four Lexington Council Members Reject Unaffordable Committments
Last week, the Lexington City Council rejected several proposals by the mayor that would result in a more fiscally-responsible budget for Lexington.
An article in the Herald Leader noted:
Lexington's Urban County Council on Tuesday approved a budget under which some government services will be cut, including police escorts of funeral processions, but Mayor Jim Gray said council ducked hard choices essential to restoring financial responsibility.
...Council voted to bond the unfunded liability in the police and fireman's pension fund by $1.4 million rather than Gray's recommendation of $2.8 million, and council used some of the money for other expenditures. Council-at-large member Chuck Ellinger said council still wanted to contribute to the pension fund, "but we can do it in January."
Members also approved bonding -- in essence, borrowing -- $400,000 to carry out several projects.
These included $150,000 for disc golf courses at Jacobson and Coldstream parks, $100,000 for a handicap accessibility entrance at the Charles Young Center on East Third Street, $75,000 to build multipurpose lacrosse fields at Shillito Park and $75,000 to find a new use for Berryhill pool when it closes at the end of this season. Council member George Myers said neighbors have begun meeting to talk about the future of the pool and the park where it is located.
Last night the council approved this budget in an 11-4 vote.
The four votes against include Vice-Mayor Linda Gorton and Council Members K.C. Crosbie, Doug Martin and Diane Lawless. All four deserve kudos from Lexington taxpayers.
Vice Mayor Linda Gorton:
Gorton expressed concern Thursday about the council's willingness to bond $400,000 for new projects when the city's bond rating was down-graded last year for borrowing too much, considering how much cash it had in the bank.
Part of that $400,000 would go to build new lacrosse fields at Shillito Park for $75,000 and disc golf courses at Coldstream and Jacobson parks for $150,000.
Gorton asked why community organizations did not raise money to build those fields and golf courses in city parks. She pointed out that baseball supporters raised money for baseball fields, Lexington Youth Soccer Association raised money to build soccer fields and Friends of the Dog Park contributed money for dog parks.
Council Member Doug Martin:
Martin said the council "has not yet come to the reality that the shortfall in our police and firemen's pension fund, and our medical benefits are increasing by about $40 million a year."
He said the city can't afford the benefits it is committed to paying now much less hiring a new class of 25 police officers and paying their benefits. He called that "shortsighted."
Council Member Diane Lawless:
Lawless cast a "no" vote because, while there are "some good and worthwhile projects in the budget, we cannot afford them now," she said. The council has not had the political will to stop the out-of-control spending, "and we are broke," she said.
Council Member K.C. Crosbie:
Crosbie said she supported the mayor's vision of cost savings for government. "We can't continue to spend money we just don't have," she said.
This is the second year in a row that Gorton and Crosbie have opposed the budget.
Mayor Jim Gray has pledged to line-item veto additional spending items.
Mayor Jim Gray said almost immediately that he would exercise his veto power to cut certain expenses in the budget.
Gray said late Thursday that starting "tonight" he was going to examine the 2012 budget "line item by line item with a focus on what's right for the taxpayer, with a focus on fiscal responsibility."