The Berea City Council approved the 2017-2018 budget in an 8-0 vote on Tuesday.
The budget process differed from past years in that it included a joint meeting with the members of the City of Berea Audit and Finance Committee and the Berea Tourism and Convention Commission. The result was that tourism commissioners fielded suggestions from city officials and ultimately committed funds to projects such as shared use trails and bike paths, as well as pledging more funds for community events.
In his remarks after the vote, Berea Mayor Steve Connelly commended the council for their efforts, noting the budget affirms the city’s commitment to tourism as a tool for long-term economic development. Connelly also noted the budget confirms the importance of the 3% restaurant tax, since it allows tourism programs to get needed funding to draw visitors into the city without having to dip into the city’s general fund.
Mayor Connelly also said the council was prudent in its effort to work with tourism while staying within the guidelines of state law regarding how restaurant tax money can be used.
Some highlights of the city’s 2017-2018 spending plan:
- Berea city employees will receive a raise of up to 2%.
- Funds for hiring three new firefighters and one additional police officer are budgeted.
- Occupational License Fees are conservatively projected to reach $5.3 million.
- Including all government funds, the city is projected to collect $17.3 million in revenue.
- Berea’s “rainy-day” fund increased $500,000 to $2.7 million, setting aside money for the government to function in the event of a financial emergency.
- $200,000 is included for Duerson field and installation of bleachers at Berea City Park.
- $250,000 is budgeted to renovate the L&N Depot for use as a restaurant space.
- $400,000 is slated for the Tolle building for office and gallery space, as well as a meeting space for 150-175 people.
- The Berea Tourism and Convention Commission budget includes $75,000 for shared use paths. The move is part of a strategy to capitalize on the growing popularity of bike/walking trails and outdoor tourism.
- Tourism budgeted $30,000 for town beautification (Christmas, Artisan Village plantings and other projects); $10,000 is set aside for music on the porch; $5,000 for the Spoonbread Festival; $28,000 to sponsor community events to draw tourists (like the Spoonbread Festival); $12,000 is set aside to study the impact/strategies relating to recreational tourism.
- The ending fund balance in this budget is projected to be $609,908 higher than in last year’s.
- $545,000 is allocated for shared use paths, and the finishing of the Indian Fort Trail. by connecting properties along Short Line Pike.