In 2004, Hurricane Frances hit Asheville and caused significant flooding and widespread damage. Frances caused nearly $200 million worth of destruction in Western North Carolina. In 2011 there is worse weather headed our way, and it isn’t driven by warm waters in the Atlantic, but [by] an unsustainable burden of debt created by the N.C. state Legislature and the U.S. Congress. When the flood of red ink flowing out of Raleigh and Washington, D.C., hits, will Asheville be ready for it?
Surplus funds are an important measure of a city’s financial strength. The current City Council has overseen a 37 percent reduction in surplus funds over the last four years. The beginning 2007-08 budget saw $21.8 million in surplus funds, but those same funds for the 2010-11 budget have fallen to $13.6 million. After the raiding of surplus funds by the Asheville City Council, our ability to deal with the economic downturn is diminished, and this impacts livability within our city.
City Manager Gary Jackson issued the report “Asheville 2010: A Financial Crossroads.” In this report, he said the city would have to spend $10 million per year for 20 years to implement all of the “priorities” of the 16 plans Asheville’s City Council has adopted.
Jackson said that unless the city has new revenue streams, it cannot accomplish the goals it has set and may not even be able to maintain the current level of services. City officials have been warned that a flood of red ink is heading our way, but still have not been forthright with the citizens of Asheville.
City expenses for basic services will continue to increase, while revenue taken in by the city will be flat for years. With fiscal discipline, Asheville can overcome this challenge. Many of the city “priorities,” as adopted by Asheville City Council, will be washed out in the flood of red ink and this must be communicated directly and honestly to the citizens of Asheville. If not, we are most likely headed in the same fiscal direction as many of the other progressive cities around the country.
Asheville will not escape the flood of red ink.
— Mark Cates