Berea budget passes, though legal question raised

Andy McDonald/The Register

From left, Jim Embry and Wendy Warren accept a proclamation from Berea Mayor Bruce Fraley declaring June 17-23 as Pollinator Week in Berea. The measure recognizes the value of preserving pollinators, such as humming birds and bees, and their natural habitat.

The Berea City Council adopted its 2019-2020 fiscal budget Tuesday night, though at least one council member questioned the legality of a budget amendment.

Before the budget vote was taken, Berea City Council member Jerry Little moved to reduce the advertising budget for the Berea Tourism Commission from $379,000 to $300,000. Little asserted the commission spends approximately $1,000 a day on advertising, but that there’s no way of knowing if it is effective. Little recommended the $79,000 reduction, saying the city can always increase the allocation for advertising next year if the reduction proves detrimental.

Council member Emily LaDouceur questioned the legality of Little’s motion, however, noting the Berea Tourism Commission has autonomy over its budget under Kentucky law.

“I would like to ask the city attorney if we have the legal ability to dictate tourism’s budget line items, considering that is KRS state statute-designated funds from the restaurant tax. They [tourism] give us their suggested budget, and we either approve it or deny it. We don’t touch their line items,” LaDouceur said.

City Attorney Jerry Gilbert said he would study the issue and offer a legal opinion at a later date.

In the meantime, other council members defended the Tourism Commission’s budget process. Audit and Finance Chair Steve Caudill said commission members “dug deep” into their budget numbers this year before finalizing a spending plan. Council member John Payne agreed, stating he didn’t think the council should cut the advertising budget without a specific reason. Little responded by saying cutting the tourism advertising budget might be a way to gauge whether advertising levels have been set at appropriate levels in the past.

When a vote on the amendment was taken, council members Ronnie Terrill, Cora Jane Wilson, Jerry Little and Jim Davis favored the reduction. Caudill, Payne and LaDouceur voted against that amendment. Council member David Rowlette was absent because of illness, officials said.

Another budget amendment was put forward by Council member Jim Davis, who moved to reduce the Berea Human Rights Commission budget from $8,000 to $2,000. Davis stated the BHRC has a history of not spending much of the money it is allocated, and that perhaps those funds could be put to better use.

LaDouceur countered that much of BHRC’s budget was spent in the spring, but Davis noted that BHRC had not submitted biannual budget reports as required. “They haven’t sent updated figures,” Davis said. The amendment passed 5-2, with LaDouceur and Payne casting dissenting votes.

After the amendments, the council voted unanimously to approve the budget, though LaDouceur noted her objections to the two amendments.

Other council business

• Berea College President Lyle Roelofs updated the council on happenings at the college, including the fact that the college will go tobacco and vape free on July 1, 2019. Additionally, Roelofs announced the birth of a new filly, Mindy, who is a future member of the Berea College Forest logging team. Roelofs also thanked Mayor Fraley and the Berea City Council for partnering with the college to improve the community.

• Mayor Fraley proclaimed June 17-23 as Pollinator Week in Berea. The measure recognizes the value preserving pollinators and their habitat.

• The council unanimously approved a measure for a contract with Rick Terrill for $1,000 to secure parking for the Berea Craft Festival. Council member Ronnie Terrill abstained from the vote. Officials said the property is being rented because it provides the safest and most convenient parking available for visitors to the craft festival. The motion carried unanimously.

• Jacqueline Bowling voiced her objections to the tourism budget, noting that while the budget process was smoother than in the past, more progress was needed.

• The Berea City Council unanimously adopted an agreement with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for the design of a trail on Scaffold Cane Road, beginning with a traffic study on Main Street. The city will receive $136,000 in state funds.

• The council passed a resolution to join an inter-local agreement with Madison County to add signage for the USBR 21, part of a bike route running from Atlanta to Cleveland that runs through Berea. Under the resolution, Berea would join in a federal grant application for $79,000 to install signs along the bike path. Mayor Fraley said investment in the project will augment Berea tourism.

• Four new employees were welcomed to the city, including school resource officer Todd Johnson, and Pablo Fernandez and Kyle Baker for the electric division of Berea Municipal Utilities, and water/sewer technician Zach Williams.

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