Some on Council say budget headed for iceberg

Lexington received $121M worth of federal American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds for COVID relief and according to CivicLex, has allocated $119M so far. The funds fall into the following categories:

source: CivicLex

“Revenue replacement” is used to replenish revenue that governments lost during the pandemic. Under Revenue Replacement, most government functions are allowed, which removes many of the restrictions of typical ARPA funds. 

But, there is only so much of it. A complicated formula determines how much of its ARPA disbursement a city can use for Revenue Replacement. Right now, the finance department has estimated that LFUCG qualifies for about $30 million of Revenue Replacement funds. There will be another infusion at the end of the year, but the majority of the ARPA money still has to be spent on qualified projects.

How did LFUCG determine which projects get funded?

  • In the summer of 2021, Council released a public survey and an opportunity to submit projects for ARPA consideration.
    • Council received 3,287 responses to the public input survey. District 5 CM Liz Sheehan and her staff created this breakdown of the survey response data.
    • Council also received 1,084 specific project proposals, which you can view here – it is one of Lexington’s most up-to-date resources on what our residents care about right now and is worth a read.
    • These priorities will guide what projects are selected by Council for funding.
  • LFUCG has set its own priorities for ARPA funding consideration that fit within federal guidelines. Those are:
    • Community Health, Wellness, & Quality of Life (ex: physical and mental health, social services, food insecurity, community centers, green infrastructure)
    • Critical City Services, Employee Retention, & Facilities (ex: waste collection, streets and roads, paving, cybersecurity, bonuses for LFUCG frontline workers)
    • Economic Recovery & Growth (ex: small business loans, supporting entrepreneurs, financial empowerment, broadband investments, agricultural initiatives)
    • Equity-Focused Services and Partnerships (ex: supporting vulnerable populations impacted by COVID-19)
    • Growing Successful Neighborhoods (ex: affordable housing, housing rehab programs, trails, parks, aging in place services)
    • Harm Prevention and Public Safety (ex: violence prevention, pay and equipment for police, fire, code enforcement)

Sounds great! What’s the problem?

The FY23 budget did not pass unanimously.

Council members Richard Moloney and David Kloiber voted against the $473 million budget, the largest budget in city history.

Mayor Linda Gorton originally proposed a $460 million budget, and the council added an additional $13M, including $5M to retain public safety employees (on September 1, the Lexington Police Department will be 115 sworn officers short,) among other things.

Other council changes included $2.5 million for a study of the Versailles Road corridor, possibly related to the upcoming school construction.

Kloiber, who is running for mayor, said the use of one time funds on projects that create recurring costs is not prescient–the city was spending too much.

The budget is a road map. This particular road map does not have a clear path to the future. I am concerned that it will lead to furloughs, lay offs and tax increases.

Mayoral candidate CM David Kloiber

The city is projecting $419 million in revenue next year. That’s based on a 4.9% revenue increase from the current year. The city has seen its payroll taxes — a tax on wages — surge over the past 18 months, due largely to increases in wages. Moloney said during a June 6 council meeting those economic indicators show that 4.9% growth in revenues is too optimistic.

Moloney and Kloiber say Lexington will likely have to raise taxes in future years to pay for ongoing expenses.

Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers was happy, though. “We got what we need and then some,” Weathers said during a work session. “Thanks for listening to us. Thanks for taking into consideration some of the things that we need.“

Our Take

If the city takes a million bucks from the feds to build a park, they should also have a plan for how to pay to cut the grass next year, and that does not appear to be the case here.

Additionally, the $5M for bonuses to cops does not seem like a wise use of money at all. Many of these bonuses are targeted towards cops who would otherwise retire, but those are exactly the cops who most likely need to be cycled out anyway.

Policing has evolved in Lexington, but there was a time when the department was, shall we say, less than upstanding. If you interacted with Lexington Police in the 90s or 2000s, the time when many of these “more experienced” officers were coming onto the force, you probably noted they were not as professional as they are today.

My first ever interaction with Lexington Police in 2005, the responding officer, a white male in his late 20s with short hair, looked me in my eyes, smiled, and told me he would “just lie in my report,” when I pointed out he wasn’t correctly recording the details of the incident. No body camera policies existed back then, so these cops had free rein to do whatever they wanted.

Lexington Police Department Crime Stoppers Coordinator, Detective Anthony Delimpo

One experienced and high ranking Lexington detective even recently received a DUI — a rookie cop was able to get him off the streets before he killed someone.

Artist’s depiction of the altered image created by a retired LPD officer

Also, LPD records indicate that another experienced officer recently Photoshopped a phallus into a picture of the police chief, shared the image electronically with fellow officers, and then lied to city HR investigators in a “Brooklyn 99” style caper. The chief was not happy, and Public Integrity Unit Commander Chad Bacon was called in.

Newer cops have always had to wear body cameras and are used to being held accountable. They, for the most part, conduct themselves professionally and courteously because they can’t remember a time when they had free rein to do whatever they liked to the general public.

The current cops aren’t getting the job doneeverybody can agree on that. But instead of using that $5M to retain bad apples, the city should instead purpose that money for recruiting new officers from Generation Z.

Mustachioed Hipster Cop III: Pink 'Stache Edition - Gothamist
Gen Z cop

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