Berea council members passed ordinance 11-2019, more commonly known as the ad valorem tax, Tuesday night, thus approving an increased rate of 10.5 cents upon each $100 of assessed real and personal property within the city of Berea.

Council member Jerry Little explained to citizens that on their property tax bill, taxpayers would see an increase of $3 per $100,000 for the city's property tax portion.

Little, who voted yes to raise the tax, said the city needs to scrutinize its spending and try to save more to dedicate funds toward the city's stormwater issues and street repairs.

Council member Steve Caudill stated that while a tax increase wasn't ideal, the cost of maintaining the city is rising, and the increase was needed to help keep providing already necessary services.

"I encourage the council to pass this -- I don't take the recommendation lightly -- but it is the responsibility of all of us to make sure that our city remains solvent and continues to provide the same services that we expect as council members and that citizens also expect of this city," Caudill said.

The motion to approve carried six to two, with council members Ronnie Terrill and David Rowlette voting against the ordinance.

Rowlette stated his concerns and main reason for voting against the increase hinged on the unknown plans within the county, which proposed a property tax increase nearly double its existing rate last week.

"My concern is it's only $3, but what is going to happen with the county, the other taxing districts?" he asked. "Before you know it, you have added all of those things up to put a tremendous burden on people who have fixed incomes, and it is a concern."

He said his biggest concern, however, was that the county had decided to hold an informal town hall for public comment regarding the county's proposed rate increase at a time that overlapped the city's regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night.

"My biggest concern is that the county chose to hold a public meeting at the Perkins Building (in Richmond) which caused some of us to make a tough decision," he said. "Do I avoid my responsibilities here, or do I go over there and voice my concerns? You see what I chose to do."

Council member Cora Jane Wilson stated that while she did not take the 10.5 cent increase at all lightly, she said she did not want Berea to find itself in a position like the county.

"I don't want Berea to get in the shape that the county is in," she said. "No taxes raised since 1966? That is over 50 years."

• • •

Other business

• Cynthia Main shared her homegrown success story after she completed her fellowship through the Artists Accelerator Program along with Gallery 123 in Berea. Main plans to open her own mercantile and artists shop in what was formerly the Five and Dime store on Chestnut Street. "I am ecstatic about being in Berea," she said.

• The Human Rights Commission's budget was approved to be raised from $2,000 to $4,000 with a vote of six to two.

• The city council voted to amend the 2019-2020 budget to add $264,500 to the governmental funds for items such as general liability insurance, the county's animal control, building purchases and street resurfacing. It also amended the budget to allocate for an additional increase of $35,000 to the proprietary fund.

The next Berea City Council meeting will be Sept. 17, 6:30 p.m., at the Berea Municipal Building at 304 Chestnut St., Berea.

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

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