Tax time: Buncombe’s towns wrestle with budget season

For cities and towns across North Carolina, it hasn’t been an easy budget season. A tax overhaul by the GOP-dominated General Assembly may leave many municipalities with reduced revenue, and in Buncombe County, a recent tax revaluation resulted in lower property values in almost every area except the city of Asheville and Black Mountain. Lower values mean less revenue, if property-tax rates stay the same.

So how are town managers and staff trying to deal with this challenge?

Black Mountain

Black Mountain saw a rise in property values. Nonetheless, the town’s board increasing the tax rate slightly. Board members are riding out state revenue losses through paying down debt and pushing back some major infrastructure projects.

“It's basically a pretty flat budget,” Town Manager Mark Settlemeyer tells Xpress.

Tax rate:
A proposed raise from 36.5 cents to 37.5 cents per $100 of property value. Town officials claim that 38 cents is the “revenue neutral” rate.

Weaverville

As in other Buncombe municipalities, Weaverville elected leaders and staff are following developments in Raleigh closely, “but we don't know what they're going to do,” Town Manager Michael Boaz says.

“The House doesn't agree with the Senate, the Senate doesn't agree with the House, and the governor doesn't agree with anybody,” he tells Xpress. “We have to wait and see what happens before we form any final plans.”

If state changes do impact Weaverville's budget, Boaz plans to use the town's reserves to make up the loss in the short-term.

Tax rate:
With a roughly 5 percent drop in property values, Weaverville’s budget increases the tax rate from 37.5 cents to 40 cents, just slightly under the revenue-neutral rate.

Woodfin

Hit by a nearly 12 percent drop in property value and state changes still unclear, Woodfin's budget process continues. “We're waiting for the General assembly to decide what it's going to do,” Town Administrator Jason Young tells Xpress. The town will likely create an interim budget and “hopefully see where things wind up” in changes to local revenue sources. To avoid a sharp tax increase, Young predicts that a smaller tax increase service cuts will be necessary to balance the budget.

“There is no other source of funding, so it would be cuts.”

Tax rate:
Revenue neutral would be a 5 cents increase, from 26.5 to 31.5, but Young says, “None of my discussions with the board have led to me to think they'll increase the rate that high.”

Montreat

According to Town Administrator Ron Nalley, despite a decrease in property value, revenue “isn't going up very much or going down, and we actually reduced some expenditures. Everything stays roughly the same.”

The town cut some capital and infrastructure projects and is considering a water-rate increase.

Tax rate: Montreat is increasing its tax rate from 37 cents per $100 to 38. This is a half-cent less than revenue neutral.

— David Forbes can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 137, or dforbes@mountainx.com.

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