Tax increases are rarely welcomed. But while city of Asheville residents aren’t likely to greet a proposed property tax hike of 2 cents per $100 of valuation with open arms, they may find the move more palatable than the 3-cent rise previously floated by City Manager Debra Campbell. Asheville City Council is scheduled to vote on the lower increase, as well as the rest of the city’s 2021-22 operating budget, during its meeting of Tuesday, June 22.
While Campbell is still recommending a property tax increase to help cover $8.7 million in new city spending, a staff report available before the meeting explains that a lower rate can be achieved by using other revenue sources. Asheville will use $1 million from federal American Rescue Plan COVID-19 relief funding to support transit operations, budget $400,000 more in sales tax to reflect updated growth estimates and appropriate $500,000 from the city’s fiscal reserves.
The proposed tax rate increase would match that of Buncombe County, which was approved unanimously on June 15 by the county Board of Commissioners.
Campbell’s proposed city budget also includes $150,000 to fund Asheville’s participation in a county grant program that aims to mitigate property tax increases for low-income homeowners. Other changes to Asheville’s budget since its June 8 public hearing include an additional $25,000 for the Information Sharing and Truth Telling Speaker Series, a public engagement effort about the city’s community reparations program. A proposed $1.2 million general fund allocation for reparations has also been removed, having been replaced by a $2.1 million allocation funded by the sale of city-owned land.
In other news
Council members will hear a presentation on Asheville’s proposed noise ordinance. The city’s Development Services Department, led by Ben Woody, has worked to update the ordinance since spring 2019, a process that has put area musicians and some property owners at odds over details such as decibel limits.
The latest iteration of the ordinance was approved unanimously during a June 1 Public Safety Committee meeting by Vice Mayor Sheneika Smith and Council members Kim Roney and Sandra Kilgore. No materials on the matter were linked to Council’s agenda ahead of the presentation.
Consent agenda and public comment
The consent agenda for the meeting contains 15 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following:
- A resolution authorizing the city manager to apply for and accept a $130,910 Assistance to Firefighters Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The money would be used to purchase protective equipment that can reduce firefighters’ risk of exposure to cancer-causing carcinogens.
- Revisions to the city’s alarm ordinance and updates to fees and charges related to alarm systems that trigger an automatic response from the Asheville Police Department. According to a staff report, APD responded to more than 15,600 burglar alarms between January 2018 and May 2021, 97% of which were false alarms.
- A motion to provide $2 million to support Homeward Bound in its purchase of a Days Inn, located at 201 Tunnel Road, for the creation of 85 affordable housing units for people experiencing chronic homelessness. The project is estimated to cost approximately $12.6 million; Buncombe County, Dogwood Health Trust and a private donor are also allocating money to the initiative.
- Adoption of an ethics policy for city advisory boards and commissions that would “help ensure that all public meetings are a welcoming, respectful, safe, and productive atmosphere.” The accompanying staff report did not explain why such a policy was being introduced now; however, as reported by the Citizen Times, a May 20 meeting of the city’s Audit Committee led to controversy after member Amy Kemp called out Council member Gwen Wisler for alleged ethics violations.
The meeting will take place in the Banquet Hall at Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville, located at 87 Haywood St., at 5 p.m. Proceedings can also be accessed via phone (855-925-2801, meeting code 8265), as well as through the city’s YouTube Channel, for those who do not wish to participate in person.
Commenters wishing to speak live at the meeting will be required to attend in person, but the city will continue to accept email (AshevilleCityCouncilJune222021@publicinput.com) and voicemail (855-925-2801, meeting code 8265) comments through 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.
The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found at this link.