LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Waterfont Park draws thousands to the riverfront each year, but Metro Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith believes paying to park would drive many of those same visitors away.

"This is the most inclusive and diverse place area in our county. So, this is a critical conversation for all of us," she told WHAS11.

That conversation continued at Thursday's metro budget committee meeting. Waterfront Development Corporation President David Karem told committee members a $420,000 budget deficit left the board no choice but to vote in favor of paid parking.

"I understand your opinion about not charging for parking and I would say probably many of our board members would say we wish we didn't have to pay for parking either," Karem told committee members.

Governor Bevin vetoed $420,000 for the park in last year's state budget. Karem also says metro council has decreased the park's budget by more than 20 percent over the years putting his board in a financial pinch. "Why from 2008 when we got 1.2 million are we now getting 987?" he asked.

Other funding ideas were addressed, including increasing the fees for special events or dipping into the more than $13 million in foundation funds to be used as a rainy-day expense. Karem says fees for special events have already increased and the money in the foundation is used only for capital improvements and maintenance. Sexton Smith says the Waterfront Development Corporation needs to bend a little by keeping the park free from parking fees.

"Sometimes you have to go to a funding source that's been protected for a long time when you need to. It makes absolutely no sense to balance the budget on the backs of the people for whom this beautiful place was designed," Sexton Smith said.