Asheville City Council preview: Budget, annexation and gamblin’

It looks to be a long meeting tonight for Asheville City Council, as a public hearing on the much-debated budget, a vote on 12 annexations and new rules for electronic gaming are all on the agenda.

Council, facing an anticipated $5 million deficit in the next fiscal year, has wrangled with next year’s budget since January. The currently proposed one closes the gap through cuts in a wide variety of areas, including festivals and employee overtime, as well as a water fee increase and other measures. Now the budget’s nearing the finish line, as tonight sees the public hearing on the budget, before Council makes its final decision next month.

Also before Council is a series of 12 annexations around the city, ranging from half of a house in Haw Creek to a series of businesses on Airport Road. Council held public hearings on the annexations earlier this month, and now the extension of the city’s boundaries.

Currently, while North Carolina law bans video poker and similar gaming operations, companies that operate the newest electronic gaming machines are appealing parts of the law, and have received some favorable court rulings. While the matter is still on appeal, such businesses have been locating in the city under normal commercial zoning. The proposed ordinance before Council would create a separate classification and rules for these businesses, as well as a fee that is estimated to bring in about $50,000 a year.

Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 25 in Council chambers on the second floor of City Hall. A pre-meeting work session beings at 3:30 p.m. in the North conference room on the first floor of City Hall.

— David Forbes, senior reporter

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