The Paducah City Commission introduced ordinances to adopt a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, and to amend last year's budget to direct funds to the floodwall project, on Tuesday.
The city has outlined $35,973,950 in general fund expenditures for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2019; that amount totaled $35,343,845 last fiscal year. That represents a 1.8 percent increase, city spokeswoman Pam Spencer said. By comparison, the increase in the city's general fund spending between 2017 and 2018 was 2.5 percent.
"This was a tough one," Mayor Brandi Harless said of this year's budgeting process.
"And it's just going to get harder," added Jonathan Perkins, director of the city's finance department. "We've been at this since the first of February."
The current budget will cover a state-mandated 12 percent increase in pension contributions, Perkins told the commission.
The commission dealt with the increased pension burden last fiscal year, as well, which cost it an additional $450,000 that year. Perkins told the Sun at the time that pensions were the biggest driver of general fund increases, and that the burden on Kentucky's city governments wasn't likely to be lifted.
Most of the city's operating expenses come from its general fund. However, 22 funds exist within the city, so its overall budget is $71.3 million. The complete budget book for the city will be available online, as are copies of previous years' budgets dating to 2005.
"This is definitely where the rubber meets the road in city government," Harless said. "I'm a firm believer that we put our money and our time where our values are. This budget should reflect the values of this board."
She encouraged the public to look over the budget and contact the city with questions or concerns. The vote on the budget is scheduled for June 25.
The board of commissioners also introduced an ordinance to transfer $750,000 from the general fund reserve for the Ohio River Shoreline Reconstruction Project, a 21-year-long, joint endeavor between the city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, City Engineer & Public Works Director Rick Murphy said.
The total cost of rehabilitating the floodwall is $32 million, and the city is responsible for 35 percent of that cost, Murphy said.
The $750,000 will go to the Corps of Engineers in increments to cover their operations on the project, he added.
Murphy noted Paducah's Pump Station No. 2, the first to be activated in flood conditions, has been running since October. This is the longest it has run continually, he said.
Harless added: "I'm thankful for this entire system when I see what's happening down south of us. This is worth the investment."
The commission voted unanimously to approve another amendment to last year's operating budget, which dedicates $80,000 from the general fund reserves to the construction of the Bob Leeper Bridge. The bridge will be a pedestrian walkway that connects the Greenway Trail near Stuart Nelson Park to McCracken County's trail system.
Other funding sources for the project include a $100,000 Recreation Trails grant and contributions from private entities. Four Rivers Nuclear Partnership has committed $30,000 to the project, while subcontractors Veolia and Geosyntec will give $5,000 each for the construction of the 110-foot bridge.