Buncombe’s Board of Commissioners will meet Tuesday, Jan. 6, for the first time in 2015 to take stock of the county’s general financial situation, as well as consider a budget amendment that would allow more staffing in the Health and Human Services Department. Commissioners will also consider changes to the Animal Control Ordinance, including current regulations for tethering dogs.
County staff will present the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, an annual reckoning of the county’s budget, debt, balance and other fiduciary considerations from the previous fiscal year (July 1, 2013 – Jun. 30, 2014). State law requires that local government aggregate and publish such documents annually, and all of the data was audited by an independent agency.
Some highlights from the report:
- The total fund balance for the end of FY 2014 was $273.5 million, a $130.1 million increase over the previous year; however, $195 million of this amount — just over 71 percent — is restricted or non-spendable.
- The large increase in total fund balance is primarily due to increases in education-specific funds: the School Capital Commission Fund and the A-B Tech Capital Projects fund, which finance educational facility improvements that are currently in “various stages of completion.”
- Outstanding long-term debt increased $149 million, to $438.8 million total. The increase is mainly owing to debt incurred for “education-related capital project and economic development.” $228 million of the debt, almost 52 percent, is related to state-mandated county funding for the Asheville City Schools, Buncombe County Schools, and A-B Tech.
- County “assets and deferred outflows” exceeded “liabilities and deferred inflows” by $113 million — more or less, the county made more than they spent by that amount.
- For FY 2014, the available General Fund balance — that is, money not tied up for debt or used for other expenses — was $50.6 million, accounting for 18 percent of the total General Fund ($273 million). County officials generally like to keep the available fund balance at 15 percent of the total fund amount, which is almost double the amount that the North Carolina state treasurer recommends.
In addition, the Board will consider increasing the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services in order to facilitate the hiring of new staff necessary for the full implementation of NC FAST (Families Access Services through Technology), which is a “new state developed and implemented system that is being used to determine eligibility for all public assistance programs within Health & Human Services.” The change is in part to the Affordable Care Act, which “requires a centralized point for applying benefits as well as the ability to communicate with the federally-facilitated marketplace.”
DHHS, following state direction, has implemented the new system in stages: Food and Nutrition Services first, and Medicaid currently. To meet the newly increased staffing demand for timely and accurate benefit insurance, DHHS is requesting 23 new positions (16 income maintenance caseworkers, four public information assistants, and three income maintenance supervisors).
DHHS estimates the cost of the positions to be near $713,000 for calendar year 2015.
In Other Business
- The Board will consider multiple amendments to the Animal Control Ordinance. The current definition for “public nuisance,” for example, may be changed to add “animals that go onto and cause damage to property other than that of the owner or keeper.” There’s also a possible increase for the minimum tethering distance from 10 to 15 feet, and an entirely new section on the treatment of horses and other equines that set standards for adequate care and shelter.
- The Board will be considering appointments to the Woodfin Water District Board, the Regional Airport Authority and the County Board of Adjustment.
The meeting will take place at 4:30 p.m. at 200 College St.