Asheville projects higher taxes for budget priorities

Tony McDowell
MONEY TALKS: Tony McDowell, the city’s new finance director, explained to Council members through how a property tax increase of 3 cents per $100 of assessed value would help fund a list of priorities for fiscal year 2021-22. Photo courtesy of the city of Asheville

Asheville City Council has big ideas: community reparations, better transit, stronger neighborhoods. But without higher property taxes on city residents, said City Manager Debra Campbell, those ideas won’t become reality.

“We just couldn’t make the numbers work without it,” Campbell said.

During a May 11 work session, Council members heard a presentation by city staff outlining how an effective tax hike of 3 cents per $100 of assessed value would help fund a list of priorities for fiscal year 2021-22. The proposed tax rate of 41.3 cents appears lower than the current rate of 42.89 cents, explained Director of Finance Tony McDowell. However, the median tax bill will still go up from $995 to $1,215 — more than 22% — due to the 27% increase in median property value for city residents assessed by this year’s Buncombe County revaluation.  

Budget manager Taylor Floyd noted that not all of the $9.9 million in new funding requests would be paid for through the property tax increase, which is projected to raise $5.7 million beyond a revenue-neutral rate. The city would tap its reserves for a one-time $1.2 million allocation toward its yet-unsupported reparation fund. And $1.7 million in spending would be funded by money that would otherwise be earmarked for vacant positions in the Asheville Police Department. 

“We currently have 67 sworn [officer] vacancies. Based on the hiring plan and the turnover rates, we know we can’t fill all those positions next year,” added McDowell. “So we wanted to utilize some of the savings from those vacant positions to do some other things within the Police Department budget and also within some of the other areas of reimaging public safety.” 

Other proposed expenses include $7.9 million to boost compensation for city employees as recommended by a recent salary study, $1.1 million to extend bus service hours in line with phase one of the 2018 Transit Master Plan and roughly $1.1 million to fill some of 100 unspecified nonpolice positions currently under a hiring freeze.

Campbell will present a final budget recommendation during the next Council meeting on Tuesday, May 25. A public budget hearing follows on Tuesday, June 8, with the final budget vote scheduled for Tuesday, June 22.

In other news

During its regular meeting held later on May 11, Council voted to implement increases to fees and charges, including a 6% boost to water consumption fees for all users except wholesale customers. Base fees for water customers will also go up based on meter size, with larger meters paying more. Although the average residential user will pay about $2 less bimonthly than in fiscal year 2019-20, further increases are likely in coming years to recover lost revenue from the discontinued water capital fee.

Council members also voted to continue a public hearing to consider changes to homestay rules until May 25. The proposed zoning amendment would allow homestays to include components of a kitchen — a stove, full-size refrigerator or sink — which are currently banned in an effort to prevent long-term housing from being converted into short-term rentals. The new rules would also prohibit the use of detached accessory structures for homestays and require that nonresident property owners be listed as co-hosts on homestay applications.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

5 thoughts on “Asheville projects higher taxes for budget priorities

  1. indy499

    Campbell’s, ” We just couldn’t make the numbers work without it”, is all you need to know. Of course you couldn’t. You start with a list of wants, not needs and tack them on. You never look at base costs, you just roll them over.

    Be sure to never provide any attrition numbers, excluding fire and police. How many people leaving these lifetime, no stress jobs? Full benefits. Where are the numbers?

    Not sure if this article’s author was attempting to blur the reality or if the city provided numbers had that intent.

    When you cut through the bs, if the combination of new assessments and new rates increases taxes 22% (per this article) that’s the headline and that’s outrageous.

    • Liam

      They don’t care- they just do not care because they have an agenda for all of us to pay for through taxes. Their view- if you don’t like it, move, someone will buy your property in a day’s time and the taxes will continue to pour in….their agenda fulfilled.

  2. indy499

    Oh and Brooke, be sure to tell us more about the reparations $200k planning expenditure. The “truth telling” by local and national speakers could really be a hoot. Money well spent.

    Your city taxes are going up an average of 22%.
    Your county taxes are going up an average of 16%.

    And affordable housing/wages covering living costs is a top citizen concern. Raising taxes 20% seems like a solid move in that direction.

  3. Smith

    Almost like the city and county have nothing to do with affordability. I’m not sure who votes for these people, But this is what you get. Higher taxes and poorly executed ideas that will never work. I don’t remember voting for reparations…. oh wait that was the the joke of a city council we have.

  4. Virginia Ritter

    Why don’t the tourists who use our infrastructure pay for the improvements! Time to get rid of Campbell!!!! Make neighborhoods stronger-we can’t even get police to respond in my neighborhood!!!!! This council is a joke!

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.