Asheville City Council preview: counting coins

After much discussion, projections of potential fiscal disaster, and speculation about the next legislation to issue forth from Raleigh, the city of Asheville’s budget is finally unveiled at tonight’s Asheville City Council meeting.

However, some peeks behind the curtain were visible May 17, when Council approved the broad outlines of a budget solution in a special meeting. It includes a one-cent per $100 property tax increase to help offset rising expenses (the county is considering a far higher increase to meet its own shortfall), and delays infrastructure spending until the next budget year.

The budget also assumes that the fate of the city’s water system, which the state legislature wants to forcibly transfer, will remain tied up in court for some time to come, leaving it in the city’s hands during the next budget year. The budget also assumes the city will have a joint Parks and Recreation Authority established with Buncombe County before January 1, 2014. This could save $2.5 million, which will help offset a $1 million revenue loss due to the state decreasing several municipal revenue streams.

If the city loses the water system before then, the budget calls for taking $1 million from its reserves to make up the loss in the short-term. If the parks authority also fails to emerge (the bill hasn’t passed the legislature yet), it could leave the city scrambling to find savings mid-budget year.

The budget gives city staff a three percent raise and preserves most city services at their current level, something staff feared were at risk when earlier budget projections showed a more significant loss due to the state’s tax system overhaul.

Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m., Tuesday, May 28, on the second floor of City Hall.

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