At its March 25 regular meeting, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority board unanimously approved a projection that occupancy tax revenue would exceed $27 million for fiscal year 2021-22 — 15% more than projected for the current fiscal year, which ends in June, and 9% more than the year before the pandemic.
“The path we’re on right now is a collision that puts us backwards and actually takes classrooms offline,” said Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, regarding the Asheville City Schools plan to relocate preschool classrooms from Asheville Primary School to other elementary schools and Asheville Housing Authority developments.
The funds, equal to roughly a quarter of budgeted property tax revenue for the current fiscal year and more than its budgeted spending on general government administration, represent by far the largest pot of federal support yet provided to the county during the pandemic.
“Families of color have unfairly limited elementary school options for their children because the district is mandated to maintain antiquated racial quotas that were put into place 30 years ago,” writes Asheville City Schools Superintendent Gene Freeman.
Buncombe County would become the first local government in Western North Carolina to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance. Orange County and several municipalities have approved similar language after a statewide ban on such ordinances expired Dec. 1.
The charging station program, funded by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality from part of the state’s allocation in the Volkswagen emissions-cheating scandal, partially defrays the cost of installing Level 2 infrastructure, which can recharge electric vehicles up to seven times as quickly as a standard 120-volt outlet.
“We would end up basically having to raise taxes on everyone else to fund these rebates to businesses that we understand have had a tough year, but many of which have had a great decade ahead of this year,” said Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman.
At its meeting of Tuesday, March 2, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will consider a contract with Asheville-based Equinox Environmental Consultation and Design to develop possibilities for the county-owned property, which has previously been considered for an outpost of Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery and a 416-unit subdivision.
The first such effort of its kind in North Carolina, the atlas will break the state into 937 sections of 10 square miles — covering roughly a fifth of its total land area — and ask birders to record all the varieties they see using the online platform eBird.
“This is not the time to talk about redistribution in any manner,” Republican Sen. Edwards told the Council of Independent Business owners regarding changes to the allocation of Buncombe County’s occupancy tax revenue. “The tourism industry has just been destroyed.”
“I’m really struggling with this process as a parent, as a councilor,” said Asheville City Council member Sage Turner, as her colleagues considered how they would appoint three members of the Asheville City Board of Education. “I’m really struggling with us not listening to teachers.”
Victoria “Vic” Isley, the new president and CEO of the Explore Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau, says new paid advertising for Asheville, an expansion of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority board to include short-term rental owners and changes to occupancy tax allocation are all on the table in 2021.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners directed health staff to set aside 975 vaccine doses per week — half of the weekly 1,950 doses that North Carolina has been sending the county — for school employees starting Wednesday, Feb. 24.
Signed by Asheville City Schools Superintendent Gene Freeman on Feb. 5, the agreement with Raleigh-based Forthright Advising drew the concern of Asheville City Board of Education member Joyce Brown during a Feb. 15 meeting of the board.
At the Tuesday, Feb. 16, meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, members will vote to accept an additional $1.75 million grant for the Safety and Justice Challenge from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Daniel Withrow, president of the Asheville City Association of Educators, says that his organization had been preparing to make its first-ever endorsements for Asheville City Board of Education seats this year but was caught off guard when Asheville City Council voted to trim the candidate pool ahead of its posted schedule.
“Many items that are now standard construction practices have been removed from our checklist, while we have added opportunities to gain points for new technologies,” explained Maggie Leslie, the nonprofit’s program director.
While the median sales ratio for the county overall increased by roughly 18% the rise was not evenly distributed. Urban areas such as Central Asheville and Southside generally saw larger percentage gains than did rural areas like Candler and Avery Creek.
Gene Freeman, Asheville City Schools superintendent, gave contradictory statements regarding the potential sale of Asheville Primary School at several meetings over recent months. Xpress has also experienced delays in obtaining basic records of the school system’s discussions.
“If it was truly perceived as an emergency, then I think we would be doing more and talking about it more,” says Asheville City Council member Kim Roney, who was elected in November on a platform that included a local Green New Deal and rapid renewable energy deployment.
Presentations by the Buncombe County Board of Adjustment and Planning Board, both delivered to the county Board of Commissioners on Feb. 2, emphasized the need for changes in how the county handles its zoning and land use policy.