City looks for solutions to budget shortfall

By Kelli Long

Mandatory recycling and increased parking meter costs are just two of the proposals Lexington is considering in an effort to streamline spending to make up for an estimated $5 to $7 million revenue shortfall this fiscal year.

The proposed changes were presented after a city audit, performed by Management Partners Inc., made more than 400 recommendations in an effort to make the city’s spending more efficient.

There is no record of a city audit since the Lexington and county governments merged in 1974, said Susan Straub, director of government communication.

“The mayor likened it to owning a car with no maintenance for 25 years,” Straub said of the audit. “It was time to look under the hood.”

One proposed recommendation on improving city efficiency that could affect students living off campus would be mandatory participation in the recycling and yard waste collection program.

Some students said making recycling mandatory would not help motivate people to recycle.

“I don’t feel that recycling should be made mandatory,” said Sarah Marshall, an agricultural communications senior. “Recycling has already been made available to Lexington residents, and my roommates and I take advantage weekly, but an incentive program that would give us a reward for efforts would push us to try harder.”

Rates at parking meters could also be raised, along with the fees to park at city-owned parking garages.

Other money-saving recommendations include the closing of some of the lesser-used city pools, as well as decreasing the number of city-owned cars by nearly 100.

Saving money is something that will be increasingly important to the city in upcoming years, as the shortfall is expected to increase to $25 million for the 2009 budget year, Straub said.

“Most of the proposed changes are not things that citizens will feel directly,” Straub said. “Most of them are internal to the urban county government.”

The recommended changes would make a relatively small impact on UK because it plays such a positive economic role in the city, said Dick DeCamp, councilman of the third district, which includes UK.

“UK is one of the largest employers in Fayette County, and a major source of revenue for the city,” DeCamp said. “Because of the amount of people on UK’s payroll and the payroll tax, that equals more money for the urban county government.”

The exact amount of the shortfall and the extent of changes that are going to be made will not be known until the budget is presented to the city council by the mayor’s office April 8, DeCamp said.