Buncombe Commissioners begin FY23 budget process with first work session

Press release from Buncombe County:

On March 29, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners took the first step toward a FY23 budget with a budget work session. During the work session, commissioners reviewed proposed personnel requests, operating increases, capital projects, and IT requests. Commissioners also received an update on the Homeowner Grant Program requests for FY23.

The first pass budget includes requests for 71 new positions. These positions include 28 public safety positions, 23 general government positions, seven cultural and recreational positions, seven human services positions, and six economic & physical development positions. The public safety positions represent requests from 911 Operations (five positions), Emergency Services (14 positions), Identification Bureau (two positions), Justice Services (two positions), and the Sheriff’s Office (five positions).

The first pass budget also includes a recommended Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for FY23 of 4.69%. The calculation of the COLA is the two-year average annual change in the CPI-W, measured as of the December data release. The Board grants the COLA through the annual Budget Ordinance, and if approved, would go into effect for employees on July 1.

The potential cost for the new proposed FY23 positions, state retirement, and COLA is approximately $13.2 million.

The first pass budget also includes $6,759,000 in operating budget increases. Key operating drivers include fleet replacements including 11 electric vehicles and six ambulances, $533,000 for deferred maintenance and jail health in the Detention Center, and $373,000 for maintenance and capital outlay for fire training equipment.

The first pass Local Education Appropriation includes $7.7 million for AB Tech, $15 million for Asheville City Schools, and $77.7 million for Buncombe County Schools. The proposed allocations represent approximately $5.9 million more than FY22.

At its Dec. 9 Budget Retreat, the Board of Commissioners identified the following priorities:

-Affordable Housing
-Climate and Environmental Solutions
-Early Childhood Expansion

The first pass budget represents a proposed expansion of funding for these priorities by $4,240,000. American Rescue Plan Act dollars have also been allocated to support some of these priorities.

The proposed budget also includes $2 million set aside for Reparations, which the Commissioners committed to supporting in August, 2020. The proposed FY23 budget also includes $300,000 for the Homeowner Grant Program, which was first launched in 2021 and served 1,283 Buncombe County residents.

Recommended FY23 capital projects totaling $16.5 million in the proposed FY23 budget include:

-Electric vehicle charging infrastructure
-A generator for the Public Safety Training Center
-Construction of a EMS base
-Facility assessment, renovation, and repair
-Library renovation and repair
-Recreation Services Master Plan
-Solar on Schools Projects Phase 3

Seven Information Technology (IT) requests totaling $658,000 are included in the proposed FY23 budget. These requests include:

-Food and lodging inspections
-Continuity of Operations (COOP) system and services
-Recreation Services management
-Vehicle and fleet management
-Workday learning
-Debt lease
-A/V equipment

Next Steps:

-FY23 Work Session – April 26
-Education & Fire Districts Work Session – May 10
-Recommended Budget – May 19 regular meeting
-Public Hearing – June 7 regular meeting
-Budget Adoption – June 21 regular meeting

All work sessions, meetings, and public hearings are streamed live and can be viewed at any time on the Buncombe County Facebook page, www.facebook.com/buncombegov. To view the first pass budget materials, click here.

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