Press release from Family-Friendly Affordable Buncombe:
Today marks the sale of the Mission Health System to HCA Healthcare Inc. This transaction, separate and apart from the sale proceeds that will endow the Dogwood Health Trust (a nonprofit foundation), will result in an estimated $15 million in additional combined annual property tax revenues for the City of Asheville and Buncombe County. Due to the complex nature of such a large transaction, the sale is just now being finalized, rather than in 2018 as originally anticipated. Consequently, the majority of the additional property tax revenues will not be available until fiscal year 2021 – in other words, until July 2020 at the earliest.
Family-Friendly Affordable Buncombe began advocating for the reinvestment into our communities of this historic influx in property tax in 2018. Our specific advocacy goals revolve around three core components of a healthier, more affordable Buncombe County for all: the expansion of early childhood education, attainable housing, and the expansion of our public transit system.
Family-Friendly Affordable Buncombe recognizes and celebrates the leadership shown by our County Commissioners in tackling these issues. In October 2018, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners voted to approve an Early Childhood Education and Development Fund that will dedicate $3.6 million every year to increasing high quality early childhood education for Buncombe County’s children, with a 2 percent increase in subsequent years. We welcome the opportunity to support these efforts and will continue partnering with both the City of Asheville and Buncombe County to identify additional sources of revenue to better fund preschool, transit and housing prior to fiscal year 2021.
Family-Friendly Affordable Buncombe will also continue to promote a plan for the City of Asheville and Buncombe County governments that earmarks reinvestment of their shares of the sale’s property tax revenue in families for fiscal year 2021 and beyond.
It is important to recognize that while the majority of the increased property tax revenue will be available in fiscal year 2021, Buncombe County families struggle today and every day to solve the affordability puzzle created by the lack of access to quality preschool, housing, and transit. At the Family-Friendly Affordable Buncombe press conference last October, parents struggling to solve this puzzle shared their stories firsthand. “I have a 4-year-old son named Joseph, and I had to stop working as a teacher’s assistant because the cost of sending him to childcare was half of my income,” said Buncombe County parent Ebony Grayson-Reece. Rachelle Sorenson-Cox, a parent relying on city bus service for transportation, noted: “I had a great job at a healthcare company on Sweeten Creek and I could not reasonably and easily get to work to keep that job.” These issues create difficult, and often impossible, tradeoffs for parents between work, care of their children, and finding a place to call home without moving outside of our county.
The goals of Family-Friendly Affordable Buncombe have been formally endorsed by the Buncombe Partnership for Children, Children First/Communities in Schools, Just Economics, MountainTrue, OnTrack WNC Financial Education & Counseling, Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, Mountain Housing Opportunities, and the City of Asheville’s Transit Committee, as well as 30 Buncombe County community members. Our endorsers have expressed their support because they believe that healthy, economically-mobile families are a cornerstone of a prosperous community and sustained workforce.