Commissioners to consider $70M in bond referendums on November ballot

Buncombe County seal

Buncombe County residents may have more than elected officials to select on their upcoming general election ballot. During its meeting of Tuesday, May 3, the Buncombe Board of Commissioners will consider a series of resolutions to start the process of allowing voters to decide whether the county should issue $70 million in bonds for housing and land conservation.  

As presented at an April 19 briefing of the board, one referendum would authorize ​​$30 million in borrowing for conservation projects, such as protection of natural resources and local wildlife, preservation of farmland and combating climate change. A second referendum would authorize $40 million in bonds for affordable housing efforts, such as funding units for low- or moderate-income people, improving related infrastructure and acquiring local land and rights-of-way for housing.

According to a survey of 400 residents conducted in April by the nonprofit Trust for Public Land in April, both measures have majority support. At a 4% interest rate over 20 years, the bonds would cost county taxpayers a total of about $103 million. The median household would pay about $640 over that period, or about $32 per year. If the county did not otherwise reduce its spending, repaying the bonds would require a property tax increase of just over 1 cent per $100 dollars of assessed value. 

If the resolutions are approved, public hearings on the ballot language would take place in early June, with final language being delivered to the county Board of Elections by Friday, Aug. 5. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.

In other news

Commissioners consider a budget amendment that would increase the county’s budget for occupancy tax revenue income and expenditures over the current fiscal year by $11 million. The county is tasked with collecting the tax and passing it through to the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority. 

Occupancy tax revenues are now expected to exceed $36 million this fiscal year. That projection is about 34% higher than the roughly $27.2 million the BCTDA budgeted for in June.

Commissioners will also hear a presentation on the Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority by Executive Director Lew Bleiweis. Bleiweis is expected to discuss the airport’s expansion, economic impact and COVID-19 recovery, among other topics.

Consent agenda and public comment

The board’s consent agenda for the meeting contains eight items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. In addition to the routine approval of previous meeting minutes, the agenda includes approval of a 5-cent increase to the per-mile rate Buncombe charges the city of Asheville for providing paratransit services.

The commissioners will also hold a briefing at 3 p.m. to discuss the county’s COVID-19 response, employee compensation study and land conservation goal. The full agenda and supporting documents can be found at this link.

In-person public comment will be taken at the start of the regular meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. in Room 326 at 200 College St. in Asheville; no voicemail or email comments will be permitted. Both the briefing and regular meeting will be livestreamed on the county’s Facebook page and will subsequently be available via YouTube.


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