The Berea City Council will hear the second reading of the fiscal year 2018-2019 budget on Tuesday, including proposals that could impact support for an opioid treatment program, a youth food program and tourism.
On Wednesday, the council’s Audit and Finance Committee discussed proposed changes for the budget to be reviewed at the June 19 council session. At one point, Councilmember Jerry Little questioned how much revenue from the three percent restaurant tax, which is collected by the Berea Tourism Commission, went to city recreation projects. Little expressed concern that not enough revenue was being shared by tourism to benefit the community. While Little did not recommend getting rid of the tax, he stated, if the Berea City Council is not satisfied with tourism’s contribution, it does have the power to repeal the restaurant tax.
The following evening at a meeting of the Berea Tourism and Convention Commission, Cheryl Stone noted that nearly 60 cents of every dollar tourism takes in goes to benefit the city, including over $700,000 earmarked for fiscal year 2018-2019. Ms. Stone noted, for example, that tourism is paying the $184,000 mortgage payment for the Tolle building, $400,000 for improvements in that facility, $30,000 for city beautification, such as flower boxes, planters and banners, $50,000 for shared use paths, over $10,000 for the free music events, such as the Levitt AMP concert series and Pickin’ on the Porch, and $25,000 in local grants that benefit events like Swing for a Cure.
In adopting their annual budget, the tourism commission enacted all of the requests suggested by the Berea City Council except for one. It opted to increase its advertising budget by 3 percent to $390,000. Tourism Director Kerri Hensley explained the funds were necessary to ensure the success of ongoing programs. The advertising budget includes media promotion of Berea Chamber of Commerce events such as the annual Christmas Parade and Spoonbread Festival.
Other spending items up for consideration Tuesday include a proposed $50,000 allocation for a drug abuse therapy program sponsored by Sustainable Berea. Officials said the program would serve four women from Liberty Place in Richmond, in which participants would learn about gardening and connect with nature as part of their recovery from substance abuse. Councilmember Cora Jane Wilson questioned the cost of the program, wondering why that much money was needed for four individuals.
In other developments, there was a discussion about future funding for Berea Kids Eat, a program that feeds underprivileged children. Last year, the Berea City Council approved an allocation of $4,000. For 2018-2019, the request is $8,000.
Councilmember Jim Davis said that while he thinks the cause of helping children in need is worthy, he noted that nothing is free, and that someone has to pay for a program when it keeps growing. Davis expressed concern that the cost to the city seems to be growing.
Little added that once groups or organizations complete the fiscal year, they should be required to produce a report to the council explaining how they used the money they received.
Councilmember and Audit and Finance Committee Chair Steve Caudill defended the food program, noting the ultimate goal to feed children was a worthy one. Caudill did suggest, however, that the program’s director, Martina LaForce, should make a presentation justifying the increase before funds are allocated.
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In other business, the Audit and Finance Committee:
• Allocated $7,500 for the Madison County dog warden, matching the amount of funds supplied by the City of Richmond.
• Allocated $10,000 to the Berea Dolphins Swim Team to replace equipment that was stolen from city facilities.
• The city negotiated a deal that reduces out-of-pocket health care expenses for city employees by 5.6 percent.
• By moving the city’s property and casualty insurance to the Kentucky League of Cities, the city’s insurance costs drop from $313,739 to $302,939.
• The committee tentatively approved a bid from Baldwin and Associates for auditing services, resulting in a reduction in costs by $1,000.
Wednesday’s Audit and Finance Committee meeting concluded with Caudill asking for a motion to recommend the budget to the Berea City Council. The measure died for lack of a motion and a second and the meeting was adjourned. If the council fails to enact the proposed 2018-2019 budget before July 1, the city will operate according to the current year spending plan. The Berea City Council will vote on the budget Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m. at Berea City Hall.