After a public survey, half a dozen work sessions and hours of discussion and public comment, this year’s Asheville city budget process is on its final lap.
During their meeting of Tuesday, May 23, members of Asheville City Council will conduct a public hearing on City Manager Debra Campbell’s $239.7 million proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2023-24. The hearing will offer residents the chance to weigh in on the spending plan, first unveiled May 9.
According to the results of the city’s public survey on budget priorities, which had 2,253 participants, public safety and emergency response were the community’s greatest concerns. Homelessness and affordable housing trailed closely behind.
Among the recommendations laid out May 9 was an almost $4 million increase to the Asheville Police Department budget, including a 6% raise for sworn APD officers. That bump would put starting pay for officers at over $48,600 per year. All other city employees would also see a 5% pay increase.
Campbell’s proposal may be adjusted by Council before its adoption. A vote on the final budget is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, June 13.
In other news
Council will conduct a public hearing to consider a land use incentive grant for Commonwealth Development Corporation to construct a 77-unit housing development on Sweeten Creek Road in South Asheville. According to the developer’s grant application, all the rentals would be offered at rates affordable to those earning at or below 80% of area median income ($45,000 for an individual; $64,250 for a family of four) for a minimum of 31 years.
In exchange for offering that affordability, the developer would receive more than $1 million in property tax rebates over 21 years. Asheville has previously awarded the project a $500,000 loan at 2% interest from its Housing Trust Fund.
Consent agenda and public comment
The consent agenda for the meeting contains 17 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following:
- A pair of resolutions that reaffirm Asheville’s support for its LGBTQ communities and the right of North Carolinians to “safe and comprehensive reproductive health care.” The resolutions respond to recent actions by the N.C. General Assembly, including its ban of most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy and proposal to restrict access to gender-affirming care for minors.
- A series of resolutions supporting repairs and maintenance for the Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville. Those actions include a budget amendment of $28,000 for the purchase of staging equipment; a contract of up to roughly $210,000 with Bypass Mobile/Clover for WiFi network infrastructure enhancements; and a $19,000 contract with Irwin Seating Company Inc. for three years of maintenance and repairs.
- A resolution authorizing Campbell to execute a contract of nearly $91,000 with Walker Consultants for the engineering of various repairs at the Wall Street, Rankin Avenue and Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville parking garages. Walker Consultants previously conducted an assessment of the garages and found that needed work includes the reinforcement of structural concrete corbels and the repair of steel framing and supports. Work is expected to start in the fall and will result in temporary closures of the garages.
Council members will gather in their chambers on the second floor of City Hall, located at 70 Court Plaza, starting at 5 p.m. The meeting will also be carried live on Charter/Spectrum Channel 193 and livestreamed through Asheville’s public engagement hub and on the city’s YouTube channel. Members of the public can listen live by calling 855-925-2801, meeting code 3284.
Those who wish to speak during the meeting must attend in person and sign up at the door. No live remote comment will be permitted. Prerecorded voicemail messages can also be left at 855-925-2801, meeting code 3284; written comments can be sent to AshevilleCityCouncilMay232023@publicinput.com until 9 a.m. May 23. General comments for City Council can be sent at any time to AshevilleNCCouncil@AshevilleNC.gov.
The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.
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