Buncombe County Commissioners preview: Budget battle (round 2)

The June 7 meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will feature public hearings on its 2011–2012 budget proposal and several related issues.

The $303 million budget proposed for the fiscal year that begins July 1 avoids any tax increases, relying instead on cuts and $7.9 million in reserve funds. County departments shaved projected expenditures by $7.9 million, primarily by eliminating 93 staff positions.

However, the proposal calls for a 1.7 percent increase in overall spending, mostly due to rising social-services and health-insurance costs, as well as the expense of building two new intermediate schools. The meeting will include a presentation by the Buncombe County School system to further explain those expenses and its operating budget.

The 2011-2012 fiscal year is the fourth consecutive year in which Buncombe County Schools has suffered significant reductions in state support for its operations, according to its Preliminary Budget Estimate. Those cumulative cuts in state operating dollars now total over $30 million. The $48,782,997 in county funds requested by the school system for the next fiscal year “represent the minimal increase in funding that we must receive in order to avoid even deeper reductions in our instructional program,” writes Superintendent Tony Baldwin in his introduction to the estimate.

The meeting will also feature a round of public hearings on the county budget’s proposals to amend and raise fees on a number of Planning Department services, including erosion control permits and rezoning requests.

In addition, the board will consider a rezoning request from EAL Holdings, LLC to change a .72 acre parcel of land located at 495 Watson Road from Residential District to Employment District. Both Planning Department staff and the Planning Board recommend approving the changes, explaining in a report that they think it’s consistent with surrounding land uses and the Buncombe County Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

The board will meet at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 7, in the commissioner’s chambers, located at 30 Valley St. A short pre-meeting review of the agenda will begin at 4:15 p.m.

About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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