Taylor Six/The Register

The Berea City Council met Tuesday virtually to discuss the city’s budget.

Calling it a "very difficult budget situation to be in," in light of global pandemic, Berea Mayor Bruce Fraley and the city's council approved the first reading of the 2021 fiscal year budget.

Before it was approved, the mayor thanked all parties which helped make it happen, including the city administrator, the Audit and Finance Committee and Finance Director, Susan Meeks.

"I really compliment all those people who looked into trimming costs as much as we can until we can determine the impact this will have on us longterm," Fraley said.

Following the reading, City Administrator David Gregory reported two line items that would see overages in the current fiscal year budget, as a result of the city's response to the coronavirus.

Gregory said the general government line item would see an increase in the janitorial fund from increased cleaning services implemented over the past several months.

"Due to the COVID-19 situation and having to clean so much and sanitize our buildings, I will have to continue to purchase the necessary items during this emergency …" he said.

Originally budgeted for $10,000, Gregory said he anticipated that the line item would exceed that amount by $5,000.

Additionally, the buildings and ground line item would also see an increase from the installation of plexi glass in certain areas of the buildings.

Again, this line item would see an increase of $5,000.

"It was necessary changes we had to make for safety reasons," Gregory said.

Council member Steve Caudill, who is also the head of the audit and finance committee, made sure to reiterate that all the increases were strictly related to the coronavirus response.

With the state of emergency being declared, Gregory said the funds spent could be reimbursed through the state, and that the city would apply.

Later, during the mayor's comments portion, Mayor Fraley addressed several concerns regarding a budget reduction in the 2021 budget to the Human Rights Commission — a topic that largely consumed Monday night's budget work session meeting.

As it stands now, the HRC is budgeted to not be financed at all, with $0 set aside for the commission's staff or for programming.

He first stated the HRC has played, and will continue to play a large role in Berea, but again attributed the coronavirus pandemic as a factor which "adversely affected" the budget.

"We had to make some very difficult decisions to cut many line items through the budget, and budgets were cut in all department including the mayor and city council's budget," he said.

He said in the coming months, as revenues can potentially rise, funding will be streamed back into departments.

Additionally, he said public notices for the commission, and advertisements for trainings, could be paid through the administrative portion, or mayor's portion of the budget.

"Our commitment to the HRC remains unchanged," he said.

An avid supporter of the commission, Council member Emily LaDouceur spoke during council comments, proposing several ideas to help set aside money for the commission.

One of which, was reducing their contribution to the Madison County Animal Shelter from a proposed a $30,000 to only $10,000.

She said in her proposed plan, $5,000 would be reserved for a dog-park which was introduced by Council member Ronnie Terrill. An additional $5,000 would be set aside to help with the operation of the HRC.

"This would be for the Berea Human Rights Commission to continue their programming at a time when it is need," she said. "It is simply hypocritical to say we decry racism in the world and then completely defund our Human Rights Commission and dump the work of an entire commission onto one resource coordinator …"

She then said the remaining $10,000, she said, could be set aside for future COVID-19 or general relief funds.

The proposed budget will be voted on at the council's next meeting scheduled for June 16 at 6:30 p.m.

Other business

• Ordinance 10-20 was approved which to supplement the Code of Ordinances to the American Legal Publishing Corporation.

• The Department of Business and Tourism Development was established after an almost unanimous approval was given to the second reading. Council member Emily LaDouceur was the only member to vote against the ordinance.

Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter @TaylorSixRR.

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