Crunch time: City holds special budget town hall this afternoon, considering major cuts

A tax revaluation, rising expenses, and a barrage of state legislation are all creating a chaotic budget year for the city of Asheville. This afternoon, Asheville City Council and city staff will discuss the issues — and some radical proposals to solve them. Council also invites the public’s input at the special 2 p.m. town hall meeting in the U.S. Cellular Center banquet hall.

While a tax revaluation showed that property values rose 2 percent in the city, rising expenses in areas ranging from fuel to transit meant that the city would have to work to break even.

But city staff project that state legislation taking away the water system and its extraterritorial jurisdiction (eliminating local privilege licenses and a beer and wine excise tax) will deal the city finances a body blow, costing at least $5.2 million in the next fiscal year, and $6.4 million the year afterwards.

To deal with such a large shortfall, staff are proposing radical cuts, including the end of Bele Chere this year (instead of next) and Saturday bus service, the closing of the WNC Nature Center and a fire station along with all city pools, less police overtime, $200,000 less to the affordable housing trust fund, the elimination of nuisance court, the end of youth and adult athletic programs, among other measures.

The proposals do not consider a property tax increase; a 1 cent per $100 increase in the property tax raises about $1.1 million in revenue. Staff are calling for another budget work session April 23 and passing the budget on June 11, to deal with the increased difficulty of the budget situation.

The city will also consider the proposed Business Improvement District plan, and possible alternatives to provide an increased level of services for downtown.

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