The agenda for the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners’ Tuesday, Jan. 19 retreat reads like a year in review: affordable housing, zoning actions, greenway projects, waste reduction and encouraging employers to pay a living wage.
The retreats are intended to give a preview of the county’s goals for the year, as well as review the progress made on goals from the previous year.
By focusing on core services and priorities, realigning existing resources to meet those priorities and keeping in mind the long-term plan, Buncombe County proposes that it will be able to meet its goals for 2016.
For a more detailed analysis of these agenda bullet-points, check Xpress later on Tuesday for a complete report following the meeting.
The retreat will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 19, in the first floor conference room of the county building at 200 College St. There will be no regular meeting that evening; the next regular meeting will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 4:30 p.m.
Increasing affordable housing
A slideshow for affordable housing shows that the county will consider housing bonds, a one cent tax rate, additional general fund allocation, incentive grants, public-private partnerships, continuing zoning density changes and land donation in order to increase the county’s stock of affordable housing.
The Commissioners will also hear about the financial burdens childcare places on working parents, and how pre-Kindergarten programs can help relieve parents of these financial burdens as well as prepare Buncombe County children for their school years.
This year, the county may consider a pilot pre-K program for at-risk, low-income families — or adopt a pre-K program universally across the county.
For greenways, the county will discuss the current projects planned for the Bent Creek area and along NC 251 (Riverside Drive).
Click here for a more detailed view of the county’s greenway plans.
Waste reduction programs
The next presentation will be on reducing the county’s waste production.
Commissioners will discuss possible waste reduction programs (a household solid waste fee) to reduce spending on expansion that would satisfy county waste production.
The cost of waste reduction programs would be distributed equitably across all households, and it would provide additional revenue for other waste reduction programs, such as composting, or for collection programs.
Household waste fees are typically collected on property tax bills, so under potential problems of the program, the county lists “could be seen as an additional ‘tax,’ [and] municipal residents could push back, saying that they don’t benefit” from the program. The fee may also have to be raised if programs are expanded or added in the future.
Under possible zoning actions, the county anticipates considering an increased density for affordable and workforce housing development. Goals “to be continued” from 2015 include adding business district overlays, decreasing the density allowed in large tracts of the county with public utilities, allowing HUD-labeled manufactured homes in all districts and conducting a traffic impact analysis.
Living wage options
For this presentation, the county proposes the question: What are our options?
“Counties cannot require employers bidding on contracts to pay a living wage,” reads the slideshow. However, it reads, “counties can base economic development polices on living wage, [and] options include incentives based on salary structure and increased transparency of salary structure during public hearings on economic development.”
Another issue to consider, the presentation suggests, is that while the living wage leaves single, childless individuals with discretionary income after taxes and expenses — the living wage may not account for children added to the mix. While two childless adults paid at the living wage may have an estimated $5,677 saved after one year, a two-adult one-child family not only has no extra money at the year’s end — they’re actually about $218 in the red.
Budget retreat preview
The final point of the morning is to review topics for the county’s budget retreat in March.
In-progress county projects include: the Comprehensive Care Center for emergency mental health treatment; the Family Justice Center for domestic violence or abuse victims; the Coxe Avenue building expansion and parking deck; the county’s new firing range for training law enforcement officers; a new covered pool to replace the older Zeugner Pool; a new tax system upgrade; the A-B Tech Allied Health facility, multipurpose building, parking lot, public service training facility and the Rhododendron building.
For fiscal year 2016, which ends June 30, the county allocated $2.6 million to community development funding. For fiscal year 2017, however, nonprofits have already requested a total of $7.2 million — more than twice as much as the previous year’s actual funding and up from the $4.2 million requested last year.
A preview of funding requests from 2017 to 2022 includes replacement of information technology equipment over the years, the design and construction of an addition to the existing Davidson Street detention center in 2022 and the implementation of both the Sports Park master plan and the master plan for Lake Julian in 2022.