Budget, tax talks and Duke Energy rezoning top commissioners’ agenda

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners begins heavy lifting on its budget for the upcoming fiscal year during its meeting on Tuesday, May 2.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners begins heavy lifting on its budget for the upcoming fiscal year during its meeting on Tuesday, May 2. Graphic courtesy of Buncombe County

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will begin to get into the red meat of the budget process during its meeting on Tuesday, May 2. Commissioners will get their first overview of the proposed budget from staff, and Asheville City Schools and A-B Tech will make budget requests. The meeting will also feature a public hearing concerning Duke Energy’s rezoning request for 23.6 acres of land in Arden.

Million dollar questions

County Manager Wanda Greene will give a presentation on the proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 (starting July 1, 2017). The proposed overall budget is $419,289,728, an increase of $5.7 million (1.4 percent) from the current budget.

The million dollar question is what the property tax rate for next fiscal year’s budget will be. It’s currently at 60.4 cents per $100 of valued property. However, the latest property tax revaluation saw county property values increase by $6.8 billion (28 percent) over the last assessment in 2013.

Greene is starting budget talks with a proposed property tax rate of 55.9 cents per $100 of valued property, or $1,118 for a home valued at $200,000. The revenue neutral rate would be 51.3 cents, or $1,026 for a home valued at $200,000.

Greene states the proposed rate of 55.9-cents “recognizes loss of one-time revenues of $6.8 million in [fiscal year 2016-17] and supports new costs within our core services and priority areas.” The $6.8 million refers to a land purchase made by county commissioners in 2015 in hopes of luring Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery. That failed attempt led to public finger-pointing among commissioners.

No official action will be taken on the budget, and the property tax rate is far from being set. Commissioners will continue to discuss the property tax rate and overall budget during a workshop on Tuesday, May 16. They have until June 30 to approve a budget.

You can view a spreadsheet of the budget here.

Property values are going up across the county at different intervals. The increase represents a change of about $6.8 billion from the last assessment in 2012.
Property values are going up across the county at different intervals. The increase represents a change of about $6.8 billion from the last assessment in 2012.

City tax, county board

Among those issues commissioners will continue to consider is funding for Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools.

ACS will make a presentation to commissioners and ask for increased funding along with a new Asheville District Supplemental Tax rate of 13-cents per $100 of assessed value.

ACS will be requesting $72,499,543, a 5 percent increase from the current fiscal year’s allotment. Funding allocated to public school education will be split between ACS and BCS on a per-pupil basis. It’s an equation determined every year and is based on the number of students attending each school system.

ACS has identified a number of priorities and projects it wants to fund. Some of those items include:

  • $385,886 for salary increases
  • $302,672 for local salary supplement increases (the current budget calls for a two-year commitment to supplement increases)
  • $288,577 for five new elementary school teachers in order to meet state mandated class size
  • $132,623 to hire four teacher assistants

In regard to the Asheville District Supplemental Tax, the current rate is 15-cents and the request for 13-cents is based on this year’s property revaluation which saw a $6.8 billion increase in the county’s property tax base. While the tax rate would decrease, technically it would be an increase in funding due to the 28 percent increase in property values. For more information about the Asheville District Supplemental Tax you can view Citizen-Times reporter Julie Ball’s article on the issue here.

No official action on the budget request or the supplemental tax will take place until commissioners vote on the overall budget.

You can view the entire ACS presentation here. A presentation from BCS is not on the agenda.

Community chest

A-B Tech will also make a presentation asking commissioners for $7.8 million for the next budget year, an increase of $1.8 million from the current budget.

The request covers $3.1 million for salaries, about $1.5 million for capital improvement projects, $1.7 million for utilities and other operating and preventative maintenance costs.

No formal action is expected regarding this funding request as it will be part of the overall budget.

Duke of Arden

The above map shows the 10 properties Duke Energy wants rezoned from R-3 to EMP. County staff and the Planning Board are recommending approval.  Map courtesy of Buncombe County
The above map shows the 10 properties Duke Energy wants rezoned from R-3 to EMP. County staff and the Planning Board are recommending approval. Map courtesy of Buncombe County

Duke Energy is requesting the rezoning of 10 properties, totaling 23.6 acres, in the Arden area from R-3 to Employment District. The properties are adjacent to the company’s current facility. According to documents the rezoning would facilitate conversion of its plant from coal to gas-fired and also to remove the existing coal ash ponds. The rezoning would allow for temporary staging of construction vehicles and equipment needed for that process.

The county’s Zoning Ordinance describes Employment Districts as:

The EMP Employment District is primarily intended to provide appropriately located sites for employment concentrations primarily for office uses, industrial uses, storage and warehousing, and wholesale trade. Such locations should currently have public water and sewer services available or be expected to have these services in the future. Only those manufacturing uses will be allowed which meet all local, state and federal environmental standards, and do not involve obnoxious noise, vibrations, smoke, gas, fumes, odor, dust, fire hazards, or other objectionable conditions which would be detrimental to the health, safety, and general welfare of the community. These areas will also include sites suitable for supportive activities such as community service, commercial service, and residential uses.

County staff and the Planning Board are recommending commissioners approve the request noting it is consistent with the county’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan and compatible with the surrounding properties.

A public hearing will be held before commissioners vote on the rezoning request.

You can view the entire agenda here. Commissioners meet at 5 p.m., on Tuesday, May 2 at 200 College St.

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About Dan Hesse
I grew up outside of Atlanta and moved to WNC in 2001 to attend Montreat College. After college, I worked at NewsRadio 570 WWNC as an anchor/reporter and covered Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners starting in 2004. During that time I also completed WCU's Master of Public Administration program. You can reach me at dhesse@mountainx.com.

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One thought on “Budget, tax talks and Duke Energy rezoning top commissioners’ agenda

  1. luther blissett

    The spreadsheet suggests it’s a relatively static budget, but Greene’s going to need to spell out her justifications (and math) in detail for everything that’s above revenue-neutral. I’m not massively comfortable with a one-time loss being factored into a millage rate that inevitably becomes the benchmark for future budgets, and there needs to be transparency on the asset value and future prospects for that Bent Creek parcel.

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