By Kelcie Slone–
Professionals from across the city were invited to U of L yesterday for a meet and greet with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer at an event the university dubbed the “Breakfast of Champions.” During his tenure, Fischer has reduced the city’s deficit from $22.5 million in 2010 to the current figure of $8 million. The mayor has a new plan for raising funds, but wants to hear from the people of Louisville about what to do with them.
Fischer’s current plan for the future is to create a temporary local sales tax. Such a tax has been successfully implemented in other cities, including Oklahoma City. Fischer will need to secure an amendment to the Kentucky constitution allowing the tax. If passed, Louisville residents would be given an opportunity to vote upon the finer details of the tax itself, including how much it would be, how long it would last, and what projects the revenue would be used to fund.
“The local income tax is a way for us to invest in our city,” Fischer said, to much applause.
A key point in the mayor’s address was that the tax would not be allowed to exceed one percent of an item’s purchase price. A one percent local sales tax, in addition to the six percent state sales tax, would bring Louisville sales tax to seven percent, even with Indiana’s. Fischer said that he would like Louisville to remain competitive with Indiana’s economy.
Fischer asked the audience to discuss what projects they would like to see funded by the tax. The responses were diverse, but each idea was generally well-received by the room, and was recorded by the mayor for later review. The projects listed included:
- Transport. Many of the citizens felt that the amount and types of local transport were significantly lacking. Travel by light-rail and an increase in biking paths were both suggested as a way to improve city transportation. Local transportation would be used to connect the city, including the suburbs. Also suggested were the creation of identical boulevards extending from central Louisville north, south, west, and east as a way for all parts of the city to unify and connect, and an expansion of the downtown skywalk.
- History. Louisville, founded in 1798, has historic buildings aplenty. Many audience members were in favor of increased funding to preservation initiatives.
- New visual landmarks. St. Louis has the Arch, New York City the Statue of Liberty, San Francisco the Golden Gate Bridge. Why not give Louisville an internationally renowned landmark all its own? The citizens felt that the waterfront is being misused and should be transformed into something the city can take true pride in.
- Water and Whiskey. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water flow over the Falls of the Ohio every single day. Respondents believe that we should be harnessing that natural power and creating hydroelectricity for Louisville to sustain itself upon. As for the whiskey, it has been suggested that Louisville begin a new festivity all its own – Bourbon Festival.
- Miscellaneous. Other suggested projects include community centers, libraries, and general revitalization.
After the mayor’s departure, many guests stuck around to speak with one another about the morning’s events. Marie Spalding, a member of the University Club, is unsure how to feel about the proposed local sales tax. Although she supports Vision Louisville and would love to see the city grow, prosper, and better itself, she would like to hear more about the tax before taking a position. If the tax were passed into law, she would like projects focusing on transit to be a major focus. She would also like to see a focus on soccer in the community.
“It’s a great sport and a great opportunity for the city,” Spalding said. In her opinion, soccer would be a great way to reach out to troubled youth, give them an outlet, and help them get on the right path as soon as possible.
Another attendee was networker and Okolona Business and Professional Association Amy Streible. Coming from a business background, she was able to provide that so far, the majority of business owners are strongly against the local sales tax; However, Streible believes in mayor’s vision: “I like the idea of making the city where I work, live and exist better.”
If the tax became a reality, she would like to see a focus on transportation and making the city more green. Streible lives in a suburban neighborhood and remarked that she has never seen anyone in her community with recycling bins. Therefore, she would like to see more initiative for recycling, not only in the suburbs, but in the city as well. Teaching people to take responsibility for their environment is major goal for her. “If you can help people change little by little, you can eventually accomplish something huge.”
Fischer’s proposal is still only that — a proposal. But it may easily become a reality soon enough. To find out more about this project, or to submit your own ideas for projects you think deserve to be funded by this tax, visit Visionlouisville.com.
A final word from Fischer: “This isn’t about reelection. This isn’t a proposition to gain my (sic) popularity. This is about making our city better.”