Buncombe County Commissioners set to hear more budget requests

Nonprofit agencies will make their case for funding from Buncombe County's upcoming budget for Fiscal Year 2018. A total of 46 nonprofits are asking for an aggregate of almost $11 million.

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will have a notable absence at its meeting on Tuesday, May 31. Former Commissioner Miranda DeBruhl unexpectedly and abruptly resigned earlier this month, leaving the Buncombe County GOP looking for a replacement both for the current board position as well as the candidate on the November ballot for chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners.

The short-term appointment will have to wait until at least next month, according to Nathan West, chair of the Buncombe County GOP, because that leadership will not hold its election for a replacement until June 2.

Republicans will select someone to take DeBruhl’s place through this calendar year. The seat will be part of the November general election.

Meantime, on June 18, Buncombe County Democrats will select an opponent to run against whomever the Republicans choose as DeBruhl’s replacement. The winner of the November race will finish out the post’s two remaining years.

Budget requests

This will be the first public budget meeting since commissioners received an update in March when the potential of a nearly $28 million shortfall was presented. Commissioners need to adopt a budget before the current fiscal year ends on June 30.

Buncombe County Manager Wanda Greene is recommending a total budget of just over $407 million, which would hold the property tax rate at 60.4 cents per $100 of valued property. However, property revaluations will take place later this year with new values expected to be sent out mid-January 2017. Property tax revenues are estimated to account for just over $180 million of the proposed budget.

Human Services is the heftiest expenditure, proposed for $105,314,601. Education expenditures, proposed for $89,253,475, makes it the county’s second largest budget component, while public safety’s proposed $85,559,626 ranks third.

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will hear budget requests from A-B Tech, Buncombe County Schools and Asheville City Schools.

A-B Tech will ask commissioners for $6,397,522 for the 2017 fiscal year, up $333,526 from the current budget year. However, A-B Tech spokesperson Kerri Glover takes issue with the notion the request is an increase, noting that “county funding for A-B Tech has dropped from $8.06 million in 2013 to $6.06 million in 2014 and has remained at that level, despite the fact that our operational and facility expenses have increased. Last year, we requested that the $2 million be restored, but it was not. This year, we are asking for an additional $336,526 in our budget request, but our funding actually remains down by $2 million.”

Buncombe County Schools will ask for a total of $66,608,463, an increase $3,986,171 from the current budget year. And Asheville City Schools will request $65,753,408, an increase of $3,131,115 from the previous budget year.

However, funding allocated to public school education will be split between Asheville City Schools and Buncombe City Schools on a per-pupil basis. Donna Watson, executive director of finance for Asheville City Schools, says “The split between the two school districts has to be redetermined each year based on the number of students each school system has. So even if the total funding Buncombe County approves for public school education stays the same, the amount each school system receives will most likely change.”

Outside of education-based funding requests and a budget overview, commissioners have no other new business or public hearings on their May 31 agenda. You can view the full agenda here.

The Board of Commissioners plans to hold its public hearing on the overall budget during its Tuesday, June 7, meeting.

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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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