Erlanger moves closer to resolution on emergency budget appropriations

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The Erlanger City Council is closer to resolving a disagreement about how to best appropriate $5 million in city funding after their Tuesday night caucus meeting.

The city moved the money out of the general fund at the end of 2022 and placed it into the capital budget. This move restricted the money’s use to the purchase of essential public goods like emergency vehicles and infrastructure repair.

Although disagreement had characterized much of the discussion about how to use the money leading up to Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Jessica Fette and much of the council were pleased with the alternatives presented.

Former council member Gary Meyer and other members, such as Rebecca Reckers, Tom Cahill and Jennifer Jasper-Lucas, had advocated for moving the money in hopes of creating a cushion for the city in the event of a natural disaster or economic downturn in the latter half of 2022.

Last year, advocates of the re-appropriation had cited flooding in Eastern Kentucky and the departure of Toyota from Erlanger in the late 2010s, which drew about 1,600 jobs — and their attendant payroll tax revenue — out of the city. More recently, advocates referenced declines in payroll tax revenue in other cities in the region as arguments for why such a reallocation was necessary.

Council member Tyson Hermes, who was originally against the reallocation, suggested adding specific triggers to the funds to ensure they weren’t misused in an ordinance that went through a first reading in June. But several council members were displeased with the ordinance.

To that end, council member Rebecca Reckers presented an alternative on Tuesday, which she dubbed a “resilience or stability fund,” at the caucus meeting.

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Reckers expounded on how such a fund would work at the beginning of the meeting. She read from a bulleted list she’d distributed to the rest of the council, which described how the fund would work.

Erlanger Council Member Rebecca Reckers at the meeting on July 18, 2023. Photo by Nathan Granger | LINK nky

“This initiative is to safeguard the assets of the community through establishing a resilience/stability fund,” Reckers said. “City council wishes to mitigate fiscal volatility and provide assurances to the community that the city can experience a negative downturn in the economy or unforeseen disaster, which could disrupt the delivery of services and negatively impact our operating budget at any given time within the fiscal year.”

Reckers said she researched other nearby cities, such as Fort Thomas and Cincinnati, and other cities throughout the country to see how they handled similar funds and used that research to inform her presentation.

Discussion followed on whether the money ought to be kept in the capital budget or moved back into the general fund.

Based on her research, reckers argued it ought to be moved back into the general fund as it would allow for greater leeway in how it could be used, a position that other council members seemed to share.

“My preference would be to put it in the general [fund] because I feel like we will have more freedom with it that way,” Jasper-Lucas said.

Fette agreed.

“I feel a lot more comfortable with this being in the general fund,” Fette said.

Council member Vicki Kyle also expressed her appreciation for Reckers’ proposed triggering mechanisms, which she characterized as more specific than earlier versions of the ordinance.

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“I also want to commend Miss Reckers,” Kyle said, “because I feel more comfortable with the triggers. I was a little bit uncomfortable with just saying natural disaster or emergency because something else may come up.”

Reckers and other council members will now work with city attorney Jack Gatlin and city finance director Kara Kramer to draft a new ordinance, which the council will consider in the coming months.

The next Erlanger City Council meeting is scheduled for Aug. 1 at 7 p.m. at the Erlanger City Building on Commonwealth Ave.

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