In her May 16 budget message to the Buncombe County commissioners, County Manager Wanda Greene gave a brief sketch of how the current property-tax rate (59 cents per $100 of assessed value) could be reduced to a more palatable 54.5 cents. (In the wake of last fall’s property revaluation, the revenue-neutral rate would be 50.25 cents.)
The sketch identified four areas where money could be saved, including “Sheriff additions,” “Education — new programs,” “Conservation/recreation reserve,” and “nonprofit capital campaigns.”
In a follow-up June 6 e-mail (reprinted below), Greene provided more specific information about the potential cuts, one of which prompted a stern rebuttal from Sheriff Bobby Medford during the commissioners’ June 6 meeting.
From: Wanda Greene
Sent: Tuesday, June 06, 2006 11:54 AM
To: Bill Stanley; Carol Peterson; David Gantt; David Young; Donna Clark; Joe Connolly; Jon Creighton; Kathy Hughes; Keith Snyder; Mandy Stone; Michael C. Frue; Nathan Ramsey; Wanda Greene
Subject: possible ’07 budget
So everyone knows what is/isn’t included at 54.5 cents, I’ve made some notes on the Nathan’s proposal. The bottom line is whether or not you want to appropriate $4.8 million in fund balance [the reserve or “rainy day” fund that local governments must have to maintain a favorable bond rating]. If you do, it will take additional cuts to ensure recurring savings. Staff has already made a significant number of cuts that result in recurring savings. We’ve always managed savings in the past, but frankly are running out of places to cut that are acceptable to a majority of the board, and the cuts get tougher. Health is a good example from this past year. There have been many improvements made, but they have all come at a high emotional price with several health staff members “stirring things up” and causing each of you some grief. We’ve saved money, provided more services to our citizens, and made sure staff was employed elsewhere for the most part; however, there was still a lot of upset around this restructuring and beginning of a cultural change. There are additional opportunities for cuts, but they will all be equally challenging. I have no doubt that staff is up to the task, but there is advantage to being methodical. It will take time and courage.
Some examples of how you can get to those cuts, if you wanted to make them include:
Close the three child care centers (give us transition time to keep from upsetting the community) and save $750,000.
Cut the 11 positions that many Sheriff employees’ say just sit around in the Sheriff’s Department and save $750,000. Reclassify several sheriff employees to civilian versus sworn classifications (to match the jobs they do) and save $250,000, in total this would save $1 million.
Cut the Clinical Director in Health Center and put management of that service under the Medical Director and save $100,000.
Reduce appropriation to County Schools to $2.5 million and save $1,163,000.
Cut funding of economic development incentives to places like Volvo, Borg Warner, etc., and administrative funding for the EDC and save $700,000 annually.
Authorize a reduction in force, starting with currently vacant positions, then authorize me to realign positions to meet core needs – savings $1.5 million.
Let me know if any of these are cuts you’d like for staff to implement.