LEXINGTON, Ky. - This week we talk with Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes about the city’s budget surplus, the decision to shut down a fire station, and the possibility of a fairness ordinance.
Question: Richmond is expected to have a budget surplus from the last fiscal year of around $3 million. How was the city able to end up with those extra funds and where will that money go?
"We had about a $500,000 surplus in revenue and we've cut expenses. We're just being efficient and trying to run it as close as we can.
The money goes into the general fund for future expenses and capital improvements and things of that nature."
Question: Can you explain some of the factors involved in deciding to close the fire station on Enterprise Drive?
"Public safety is a very expensive thing to have and we're just trying to be as efficient as we can. A lot of this is driven by the pension fund. Right now we're paying about 38% and projected growth in the next three to four years will be up to 50%.
We just feel like that we could offer just as a good a service with four [stations] as we did with five. In my opinion we should have never built the fifth one to start with. I think we were anticipating growth but with the economy downturn the growth just hasn't produced out there."
Question: How is Richmond looking on the economic development front? The city’s current budget projects revenue increases of only around .5 percent.
"Our revenue is disappointingly stagnant. It's not growing to where we thought it should be. But our economy in Richmond is pretty healthy.
Companies have downsized and if they can maintain and be as profitable with the downsizing of employment, they're not going to hire people. And the job pay is not up. So even though we have people working, the tax revenue is not increasing because of the downsizing of the economy."
Question: Last week two women were told to leave a park in Richmond after they were seen kissing. What was your reaction when you heard about that?
"I have mixed reaction. If you know this park, it's a little private park. I know very little about it. We don't control that park. But it's an unfortunate incident for anybody. I look at, as far as the park itself, I think they would do that whether it be two women or a man and a woman. That's not a place for affection I guess."
Question: There have been calls for Richmond to pass a fairness ordinance that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, but the issue has not been addressed by the city commission. Why?
"We feel like the stand and federal government mandate things of discrimination. Their laws override our laws anyway. So I don't see the need, personally and I think the commission feels the same way at this time, that there's enough of that going on that would warrant us to have a fairness ordinance."
Question: Do you feel public perception of the city of Richmond could be affected due to lack of having on a local fairness ordinance?
"No I do not. I'd say that there's more [cities] that don't have it than do have it."
Mondays with the Mayors airs weekly on WUKY at 8:35 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.