LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) – Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton is proposing a city budget she said is bold and addresses pent-up economic needs that have been building since the pandemic began.
Gorton’s $460 million budget is a lot bigger than in years past, but she said the city is also in a very healthy state economically. The proposal focuses on boosting public safety and creating more affordable housing.
“Our economy is looking very good, very positive for our future,” Gorton said in an embargoed briefing with news media ahead of her budget address.
Headlining the mayor’s spending priorities for the future are investments in the city’s security. That means more money for One Lexington – a community resource program to reduce gun violence among youth and in troubled neighborhoods.
“I know when cameras are discussed people get a little nervous, but these are not surveilling anyone, they are simply taking a photograph of a license plate,” Gorton said.
Gorton said the city’s homicide rate is lower at this point than it was at this time last year. The budget does not increase the number of officers on the force, but she said these investments give police additional tools to curb crime.
“If we don’t have what we consider safe neighborhoods, we are not going to feel comfortable in parks or we won’t want to go out and visit art museums or whatever. Public safety is the number one foundation for a great community,” Gorton said.
The proposal also directs millions in federal American Rescue Plan dollars to go towards homeless and affordable housing resources. Gorton is also committing $2 million of the city’s money to the Affordable Housing Fund. Among the affordable-housing initiative, is the proposal of a $1 million Neighborhood Investment Fund.
“They (nonprofits) can apply for money to take this money and upgrade and renovate blighted properties and turn them around for affordable housing. This is the first time we’ve done this,” Gorton said.
Another reason why this year’s budget is bigger is that there are a lot more one-time expenses, like the purchase of a refrigerated trailer and food truck service neighborhoods without ready access to fresh food.
“It will be if you will a mini grocery where people can purchase food, it will accept the SNAP from the people who use SNAP,” Gorton said.
Also included in mayor Gorton’s budget proposal:
- A 5% pay raise for non-sworn city employees
- Money to modernize the city’s fleet of fire and police vehicles
- A $3 million infrastructure investment fund to incentivize infill projects
- A $1 million share in a public private partnership to bring more ag-tech companies to the city and improve existing ones, known as the Bluegrass Ag Tech Development Corporation
- Money to begin commissioning art pieces to memorialize those lost to the COVID-19 pandemic and celebrate the city’s 250th anniversary
Mayor Gorton delivered her budget proposal in an address to the city council Tuesday afternoon. Council members will now review and vet the proposal, adding or removing things as they see fit, before formally approving the budget in June.