With fed funds, Lexington seeks to balance service, fiscal soundness


LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – In the wake of Gov. Andy Beshear’s announcement last week that Kentucky cities will receive federal coronavirus relief funds for COVID-related expenses, Mayor Linda Gorton set priorities Tuesday for how she will recommend that money be spent.

The City has several teams that have been working hard for weeks, putting together Lexington’s application for the funds.

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Cities and counties across the state can apply for a share of $300 million in the first round of federal funding to reimburse coronavirus-related expenses. The money will be divided based on population and the local governments’ qualifying expenses.

The City does not know exactly which expenses will qualify as virus-related expenses.

“Even so, I felt it was clear to establish priorities now,” said Gorton, who has been a forceful advocate for federal assistance, telling state and federal officials, “our City needs help.”

Gorton said the City budget she had to propose in April made cuts that “hurt people who are in need of our help” because of plummeting City revenue, and mounting COVID-related expenses.

“It was not the kind of budget I wanted to present; it was the kind of budget the times demanded,” Gorton said. “With some federal assistance, we can do better.”

Gorton set priorities based for the federal dollars on community needs, and some on the City’s financial stability.

“It’s important to do both: provide for critical services, and ensure our City remains on a sustainable path financially,” Gorton said. “These are needs I could not fund in my proposed budget because of our funding shortfall.”

Because of the fall-out from COVID-19 the budget lost $40 million.

According to the mayor, priorities, in no particular order, include:

  • Funding for the social service agencies the city has supported in the past. Gorton also continues to raise private dollars for these agencies through her “Mayor’s Fund for the Greater Good” initiative.
  • Providing funds for affordable housing and those who are experiencing homelessness.
  • And replenishing the City’s Rainy Day Fund.

Gorton said the City’s financial picture will continue to change. “On April 28, when I presented my budget proposal, I said I felt our budget would go through several revisions because of the upheaval of the pandemic. That’s exactly what’s happening.”

The Urban-County Council will ultimately vote on the how to spend federal dollars.

Council continues to debate and consider amendments to the Mayor’s proposed budget. The Council is expected to ratify the budget on June 9. The new budget goes into effect July 1.