City approves fee increases for FY 2017: car registration fee to go from $10 to $30

Asheville city seal

Whether it’s our grocery bill or our water bill, Asheville residents (like people just about everywhere) are used to costs moving in one direction only: up. On Tuesday, March 22, Asheville City Council approved fee increases that will have some impact on just about every resident’s budget, from fees for trash collection to automobile registration.

Though some of the fee increases have not yet been calculated — for example, changes to city parking fees which may be implemented after a parking study has been completed — the total additional revenue generated by the fees with dollar values attached to them is estimated at $3,275,000.

City finance director Barbara Whitehorn outlined the increases at a regular meeting of Council, which had been preceded earlier in the afternoon by the first of two budget work sessions. The next work session will take place on April 12. A proposed budget document for the 2017 fiscal year will be published on May 6, and a public hearing on the budget will take place on May 24. The final budget will be adopted on June 14.

Fee increases that will directly or indirectly affect most Asheville residents include solid waste fees, water rates, stormwater fees and the cost of annual vehicle registration in the city.

According to Whitehorn and Mayor Esther Manheimer during the budget worksession, Asheville’s solid waste collection fees are lower than in most other municipalities in the state. Currently the rate is $10 per month for residential customers. It costs city taxpayers $22 per month to provide the service. After surveying fees in other towns and cities in North Carolina, the city settled on a monthly rate of $14, which reduces but does not eliminate the taxpayer subsidy (which falls on multi-family residential and commercial customers). The increase in solid waste fees will generate an additional $1.1 million per year.

Council member Gordon Smith expressed concern about how the fee increase would affect households if the city switches to a “pay as you throw” pricing model for waste collection. The city engaged a consultant to perform a study of how Asheville might implement a PAYT program, and the results of the study were presented to Council’s Planning and Economic Development committee. No implementation plan has yet been proposed.

“Our goal is to take the solid waste fee to a point that people who recycle the most could save money [under a PAYT program],” replied Whitehorn, but she admitted that it isn’t yet clear whether that goal will be achievable.

Smith eventually voted against the fee increases, saying he needed clarity on the impact of the solid waste fees on the PAYT program before he could support the package. “For me to support this increase, I need to be confident that we can move ahead with ways for people to decrease their cost,” he said.

Water rates are set to increase by 1.5% for single family, multi-family and small commercial customers, and by 3.5% for large commercial and manufacturing customers. Several years ago, Council member Cecil Bothwell explained, Council realized that household customers were effectively subsidizing commercial customers. Thus, commercial rates have risen more quickly to address that inequity. The 2017 increases will generate $473,000 more revenue than current rates.

Stormwater fees, observed Manheimer during the budget work session, are another area in which Asheville’s fees are low compared to other cities in North Carolina. “We adopted a plan two years ago to bring us up to standard,” she said. “Our infrastructure has been terribly underfunded.” Even so, Manheimer continued, Asheville’s rates will continue to be reasonable compared to other cities. She noted that stormwater fees are based on the surface area a property contains; not all stormwater fees are the same.

A 5% overall increase in stormwater fees will generate an additional $252,000 in revenue.

Perhaps the most dramatic of the fee increases was made possible by new legislation passed this year by the North Carolina General Assembly. The state lawmakers upped the amount municipalities may charge residents for annual vehicle registration from $10 to $30. The revenue generated by the additional $20, a projected $1.4 million, may only be spent on street maintenance or construction.

During the Council meeting, Smith repeated points Manheimer had stressed earlier in the day about the vehicle registration fee. Cities currently depend heavily on state funds generated by the Powell Bill (also called State Street-Aid) to fund street repairs. There is widespread concern that the state is poised to eliminate that funding. The city is taking advantage of a new street maintenance funding mechanism to prepare for the possible elimination of the Powell Bill.

Not only that, said Council member Julie Mayfield, but a graphic Whitehorn showed during the work session illustrated that 55.7 percent of Asheville’s streets are considered to be in “poor” or “very poor” condition. Generating additional revenue that will be dedicated to street repair and maintenance will allow the city to address some of those deficiencies. Also, Whitehorn pointed out, the new funds will free up $600,000 currently allocated from the general fund for streets.

Other fee increases include user fees at the Aston Park tennis courts ($22,000 overall), various charges at the WNC Nature Center (but not admission charges), fees at the U.S. Cellular Center, transit user fees, parking fees and Development Services Department fees.

No member of the public commented on the fee increases, which passed on a vote of 6-1, with Smith opposed.



About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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31 thoughts on “City approves fee increases for FY 2017: car registration fee to go from $10 to $30

  1. Lulz

    LOL, are 55% of the “poor” streets in Asheville due to being underfunded because of a) lack of funds or b) mismanagement of funds LOL? How can anyone with half a brain not see that a city that constantly raises taxes to fund such things as a 375K wall in a fancy part of town so it can blend in with the surrounding area is not only lost, but inept and out of touch lulz. Or that tax money is being spent on the RAD where we all know those cronies aren’t paying jack.

  2. Yep

    West Asheville will eagerly await the 3rd world streets to be improved asap! Right, hauntedheadnc/gordo ?

    • Lulz

      LOL, but, but you mean all those Bothwell signs out front of the houses don’t get that area improvements lulz? West Asheville is simply full of useful idiots and they are definitely getting the government they deserve LOL.

  3. James

    Meanwhile the city has budget to employ a “sustainability officer” and funds for “green” projects all over town that don’t turn into revenue for city services. Tripling this fee is an insult to taxpaying city residents. Screw the Asheville city council.

    • bsummers

      The sustainability office helped reduce the City’s solid waste output, saving disposal fees and landfill space, and reduced the City’s electric bill by managing the replacement of lights in City Hall and streetlights with more efficient bulbs, among other things. These things save taxpayer money and help the environment. I hope they continue – it’s totally worth it.

      As for raising the vehicle fee to pay for street maintenance, thank the State for whacking away at revenue that the City had counted on to pay for that. And while you’re at it, thank the State for creating whole new taxes you have to pay, like on auto maintenance. You’re outraged over that, too, right?

      • James

        Oh bsummers, you are such a tride and true defensive progressive. I forgot that everything is the fault of the Republican majority in the state legislature and the governor’s office. What was I thinking? Back to reality: All of this green this and green that are destroying jobs in the plastics, coal, energy and waste disposal sector. Furthermore, the costs to install everything from solar panels to “energy efficient” bulbs is greater than the alternatives which were more reliable to begin with. From a practical standpoint, energy efficient street lighting in Asheville is downright dangerous. This is a city with mountainous terrain and the fact that so many streets are pitch black at night is hazardous. Other cities in North Carolina with a fraction of Asheville’s revenue are much better lit at night.

        • bsummers

          All of this green this and green that are destroying jobs in the plastics, coal, energy and waste disposal sector.

          And the motor car cut into horse & buggy sales. So let’s go back to that.

          the costs to install everything from solar panels to “energy efficient” bulbs is greater than the alternatives

          What are you basing that on? Over the long term, when you invest money to retrofit, but get it all back & then some in lower energy costs, that’s called “savings”. Lower electric bills. If they didn’t switch over, someday someone like you would trash them for not doing it.

          Haven’t noticed any streets that are pitch black at night. You should send a memo to the City on that.

      • Replacing light bulbs prematurely is an absurd investment with a payback of around 12+ years. That’s assuming you do it yourself. Throw in a sustainability officer and who knows.

      • Lulz

        Mr B, you don’t seem to get it. I pay property taxes and the only thing I get is trash pick up. And now they want to tack on fees to it as well LOL.

        I don’t fault you because your loyalty to the corruption is admirable. Even to the point the you’re the only one constantly coming to their defense though they themselves seem to disappear when people start asking lulz. Maybe one day you’ll wake up and realize that being the lackey for the loons in council is not very smart lulz. Especially when your voice is louder than theirs lulz.

  4. Odd, we don’t have enough $ to fix streets, but we can build a park 3 blocks from an existing park in order to preserve the view of the PARC founder. People from Woodfin and the like, who don’t actually pay for Asheville parks are all for more parks.

    • Lulz

      LOL, I’ve seen comments from people as far away as Barnardsville putting in their literally two cents lulz. But they don’t feel the sting of increasing taxes whilst looking as decreasing services and to add insult to injury, fees LOL.

      City tacks on garbage fees, expect the Riverlink cultist to be extra busy cleaning up the River. And the irony is that it’s actually using tax money for what it should be used for anyway. Garbage pick up.

  5. My elderly friend can’t make it as it is. That is quite a big increase for someone living on $1300 a month. Means less groceries and less money for medical care. And on top of this businesses will pass along their increases so you will pay more for what you buy.

  6. City Rez

    The real crime here, among many, is the council proclaiming how poor the streets are and they are tripling the license fee to fund street improvements. That’s a flat out lie. What they are doing, as documented in their finance committee meeting from a few weeks ago, is taking this money grab that must be used for street repair then reducing the budget for street repairs. They’re taking the new money and throwing it at the transit system which does nothing but loose money and further deteriorate our streets. Nothing will be done to improve the pathetic street repair program, or lack of it.

    They also talk of bringing our stormwater fees in line with other areas, but say nothing about what they are actually spending on stormwater services as the City’s storm drains continue to be neglected where they exists at all. Their sustainability staff spends their time generating, warping and normalizing statistical data to present savings where they already existed or would be through activity that happens despite them. When they fail to meet stated goals, they change the data being recorded or selectively report the favorable parts only. They are a propaganda outlet of the City Council to create the appearance that they’re some kind of environmental heroes, when in reality, it’s all smoke and mirrors paid for by taxpayers.

    All of this is a complete sham being presented as tough decisions to do the right thing. The reality is they are taking more of our money to throw away on their idealistic political crusades while letting the core city services and assets fall further into decay. Raising fees for services that they are not delivering is called fraud, but the failure of any local media to pay attention to the details allows them to do it constantly and feel proud for their innovative sleezebaggery. If you doubt any of this is fact, you are encouraged to look it up for yourself, as is your right

    • bsummers

      I’ve looked at the finance committee documents as you suggested, and I don’t see anything to support your attacks.

      The current auto license fee distribution is split between transit and general fund, and any new revenue from the increase (allowed last year by the NCLEG, who know that cities are hurting) is directed by law to only go into street maintenance.

      The fact that you state that the transit system “does nothing but loose (sic) money and further deteriorate our streets”, tells me that you are driven by some unstated agenda. The transit system does a lot to keep this city livable for a lot of people, and if you’re griping about paying taxes that help keep it running, well… run for Council on a platform to de-fund it. Good luck with that.

      After that, not gonna bother with your other accusations.

      • Geez, I thought Barry could figure out that the city will spend the incremental $20/car on street maintenance because they are required to AND divert $ they previously would have spent there elsewhere. Duh.

        • bsummers

          The State specifically gave them the authority to do so. It’s not a mystery. The City was using general fund revenues for street maintenance, and the State gave them the authority to levy dedicated revenue for that instead. That increased license fee will exceed the amount that the City was using general fund revenues for street maintenance.

          And guess what – that was explicitly how the General Assembly wrote the law. You get to raise your license fee from $10 to $30. $5 of the new revenue goes to your General Fund to use as you see fit. $5 goes to your transit system. The rest goes to street maintenance. It’s spelled out, in the law, written by GOP lawmakers, right here:

          Or, you can look it up yourself:

          They’re following State law, intended to help cash-strapped cities improve their roads to the letter. But that won’t stop you from making up nonsense attacks on the City of Asheville, will it? Go nuts.

  7. Shultz!

    The citizenry of this fair city are overtaxed as it is, especially given the median income here. Money to fund road maintenance and whatnot should be coming from hotel taxes/tourism, to do otherwise is quite unfair.

    • bsummers

      Can’t do that – we have to pump every dime we can into attracting more tourists to fill the hotel rooms we overbuilt, after the last time we ramped up advertising for tourists and the developers said “Wow! Now’s the time to build more hotels in Asheville – they’re pumping every dime they can into attracting more tourists!”

      And thank the Gods – the State allowed us to raise the hotel tax, so we have even more money to attract more tourists, because when word gets out that we’re ramping up advertising for tourists, the developers will overbuild the hotels again, and…

      Rinse. Repeat.

      State law doesn’t allow the TDA, which controls the hotel tax, to spend it on infrastructure impacted by tourists. That will always come out of local residents property taxes and local residents vehicle fees, etc.

      • Lulz

        LOL, when the status mongers can’t afford the water because the brewers are taking it all then they might realize what’s happening lulz. This is Asheville dude, where they sell out their resources to western breweries because the water out west is drying up. For STATUS and nothing else. And not one lefty loon is saying anything about the coming water crisis that’ll hit this area as soon as the next drought arrives. And it will happen.

        • bsummers

          As it happens, I was doing presentations about the results of the last drought, and the possible ramifications of the next, as long as 4 years ago. One of the results from the 2007 drought was the State required cities and towns to have emergency water connections to their neighbors. In 2010, when the town of Tryon announced they had finalized the plans to connect to Saluda, which was connected to Hendersonville, which was connected to Asheville, that was when a shadowy company from Texas started courting Tryon to sell off their water system. When the town started to demand that the company come clean about who owns them, the offer disappeared.

          We found out later that the company was owned by Citigroup.

          Just like in the west, recurring drought here will bring out the privatizers. That’s why the City of Asheville’s fight to keep their water system is so important.

        • Peter Robbins

          Ahem. Lefty loons have been warning you for decades that global warming will cause droughts. And y’all have been insisting that prayers to Ayn Rand would suffice to prevent it. Where’s your Messiah now?

      • Peter Robbins

        Barry, is the upshot on the car-fee increase that the city has done the best it could with the unattractive options left it by the Legislature and that the Asheville haters here are now taking cynical advantage in precisely the way their Republican sockpuppeteers intended? That’s the way it looks from my rural view, but I’m not an expert.

        • bsummers

          Sure, people were predicting that this was the intent statewide – cut taxes and revenue distribution that cities have counted on for decades, and then “offer” them new opportunities to raise taxes on their own. They want to look like they’re cutting taxes, but all they’re really doing is shifting the tax burden onto different people, and the political burden of imposing taxes onto different people. Cynical political opportunism.

          • Yep

            Yes, consumption taxes are going to be higher since they have reduced INCOME taxes, which is quite appropriate for equalizing taxes for ALL people ALL the time. It’s why
            the IRS is doomed to be shut down in favor of consumption taxes so that everyone DOES pay their fair share! Getting rid of immense entitlement programs nationwide will help too!

          • bsummers

            Yes, tell it sister! The GOP plan: shift the cost of government away from the wealthy dis-proportionally onto the middle class and the poor, shred the safety net, and then put a narcissistic billionaire in charge of the country.

            What could possibly go wrong?

          • luther blissett

            ” It’s why the IRS is doomed to be shut down in favor of consumption taxes”

            Because consumption taxes collect themselves? Because nobody ever said “I’ll pay you in cash for that” with a nod and a wink?

            Oh Fisher, you’re such a hoot.

          • Peter Robbins

            I thought consumption taxes left some people paying an unfair share because they start with less from which to share.

          • bsummers

            You’re over-thinking it. The only point is that they wind up with less. It’s only when there’s a huge squalid serf population where there used to be a middle-class, will the Trumps of the world feel like they’ve accomplished something.

          • The Real World

            Not sure where this comment will drop b/c it’s a longish string.

            Luther – “Because consumption taxes collect themselves? Because nobody ever said “I’ll pay you in cash for that” with a nod and a wink?” Oh but, if that ever became the primary taxation in this country it would line up so well with the banishment of cash and an all-digital currency economy. Sound far-fetched? In Sweden, less than 20 % of transactions are in cash now….the rest is using debit/credit cards. It’ll come our way in time and this is when they will own us.
   FYI – negative interest rates means YOU pay the bank to hold your “cash”. Nice, right? Except you’re hostage, see. Because there is no more cash for you to remove at will.

            Barry – “It’s only when there’s a huge squalid serf population where there used to be a middle-class, will the Trumps of the world feel like they’ve accomplished something.” No offense intended (and I’m no Trump fan) but you are still stuck on the good cop/bad cop political ideaology which is soooo 20th century. Barry – both parties are intent on what you said but you’re too biased to see it. They love you for that.

            The traction that Sanders and Trump have garnered in this election is b/c people are waking up to the scam. It’s not Left vs Right, it’s THEM (the elites of either party) versus US. Do not kid yourself that both Sanders and Clinton would lick their chops to have access of our money by banning cash and tapping our deposits.

            This world is getting real in a hurry. (Fortunately, there are still some sane people. The Swiss resist the cashless concept and still allow personal gun ownership which most of Europe doesn’t. It’s even illegal to own pepper spray in some Scandanavian countries! Someone comes to rob or rape you have fun with that kitchen knife…..better practice.

          • Lulz

            LOL, went from mismanagement of funds that haven’t been used for critical infrastructure maintenance for DECADES now to Trump lulz. The lefty loons don’t seem to hold the fleecing of the middle class in Asheville but they sure do seem to have an issue with Trump LOL.

            Again, how has the RECENT legislation prevented the loons in council from paying for critical infrastructure maintenance that’s been ignored for DECADES? It hasn’t but just like the loons you people are and always do, only hold some to high standards while completely ignoring what your fellow ideologues in council do. Pathetic. Where’s the money gone? Which crony has gotten rich around here because they have council helping them? Why is Wong’s brewery getting government subsidies? Why is New Belgium getting the same for a sum total of 50 jobs? Why are millions being poured into the RAD while the neighborhoods crumble? You can’t blame Raleigh when increasing property taxes here have been used for everything but what they should be used for.

  8. bsummers

    And a tangentially-related story: despite an unnamed local mouthpiece claiming that the Flint water crisis was the fault of the City of Flint, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s own handpicked task force has made their conclusions public:

    “One of the long-standing unanswered questions in the Flint crisis has been who was responsible for the controversial decision to use the Flint River as a short-term water source. The panel’s co-chair, Ken Sikkema, a former Michigan Senate majority leader, was clear on the panel’s findings in that matter.

    “It’s our finding that clearly, (emergency managers) are the ones that made the decision to switch to the Flint River and to stick with it …,” he said.”

    Task force: EM decisions led to Flint crisis

    So, listen up NC Supreme Court! Whoever controls municipal water systems absolutely relates to health and sanitation!

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