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Lexington's mayor says unusually plentiful resources open the door for a 'bold, historic' budget

Josh James

Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton says the city enjoys an exceptionally roomy general fund of around $460 million, thanks in part to one-time state and federal pandemic relief. And she laid out her vision for how to spend it Tuesday.

Like the state, Lexington finds itself — at least temporarily — flush with cash as the economy improves and coffers are bolstered by pandemic aid.

The mayor signaled her intent to continue various investments to combat part of the fallout from the pandemic, increases in youth gun violence, domestic violence, and homicides.

As the leader during this pandemic, I have had to find answers that fit our city.
Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton

In keeping, the mayor wants to boost funding for One Lexington, an anti-violence initiative, to the tune of $375,000, and buy 75 more license plate cameras for a total of 100 to be spread across the city. For now, the latter program is only a pilot, but Lexington police say the system — only meant for matching plates to a database of known wanted criminals — is already leading to arrests.

"Let me be clear, these are not for speeding tickets," Gorton stressed. "These tools aide law enforcement in investigations and help them solve crimes.

The budget also spends $5 million on new police vehicles and more than $7 million on an upgraded fire alerting system and fire equipment.

With affordable housing identified as a top priority by city residents during discussions about American Rescue funds, Gorton's spending plan adds another $2 million on top of $10 million in federal dollars earmarked for lower-cost housing projects.

Also mirroring the more generous raises for state workers, Lexington city employees would receive a 5% raise under the mayor's proposal.

Two major road projects would also be funded — the widening of the intersection at Mason-Headley and Versailles and $5 million in safety improvements on High and Manchester streets bordering the planned Town Branch Park.

The budget would also commission new art memorializing the city's victims of COVID-19 and celebrating the city's 250th anniversary.

Gorton's spending proposal now heads to the council for consideration.

Other items include:

  • $13 million for paving projects
  • $3 million for an infrastructure investment fund, to help businesses clear hurdles to infill and redevelopment projects within the urban service boundary
  • Funding for improved translation services and outreach to immigrant communities
  • Startup funding for a mobile food truck to bring fresh produce to areas of town where it's harder to find, as part of a racial justice and equality commission recommendation
  • $1 million for a Lexington Neighborhood Investment Fund, allowing organizations to apply for zero interest loans to rehabilitate blighted and abandoned properties, turning them into affordable housing and combating gentrification
  • $2 million in this budget for the PDR program to protect working farmland

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.