This week’s meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will feature an initial hearing on the County’s proposed $327 million budget for the fiscal year 2010-2011.
Despite losses in tax revenue due to the weak economy, the proposed General Fund Budget Estimate represents a 1.1 percent increase in funding over last year. To make up the difference, the proposal calls for the county to pump $6.9 million into county services from its rainy-day fund. According to County Manager Wanda Greene, the appropriation of funds will prevent the County from having to raise property taxes, which already account for 59 percent of Buncombe’s revenue.
If passed, the budget would increase funding for human services by almost $1 million and increase funds for public safety by $2.6 million.
Alongside the budget proposal, commissioners will present their annual “State of the County” report, outlining their accomplishments and strategies to deal with upcoming challenges. Some of the biggest challenges cited in the report deal with drastically increasing demand for human services, including a:
• 62-percent increase in individuals served through Adult Protective Services;
• 76-percent increase in Food Assistance caseload (with 47% of that occurring in the last year);
• 23-percent increase in Disease Control visits;
• 12-percent increase in Medicaid/Health Choice cases (July 2007 to January 2010);
• and 9-percent increase in WIC caseload.
To deal with these challenges, the County cites a number of partnerships it says leverage community services, including:
• A partnership with Irene Wortham that transferred administration of the County’s Community Child Care Center. This partnership increased capacity by 20 percent, serving an additional 10 special-needs children within the first year of the transition. This partnership supports the County strategic plan to realign its investment in child care to leverage increased capacity and support building a skilled workforce while enhancing the quality of care for children.
• The County entered into a partnership with WNCCHS, a federally qualified health center, to provide primary care services beginning in January 2010. Through this partnership, an additional 12,000 unduplicated patients will have access to health care services the first year, and the safety net will be strengthened by adding 90 walk-in acute care slots each day. The partnership will leverage additional non-County funds, supporting the County Strategic Plan to expand access to healthcare for the uninsured and underinsured.
• $1.6 million in Shelter and Utility Assistance was distributed throughout the community via smart partnerships with ABCCM, Eblen-Kimmel Charities, and Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry. These funds keep families whole and self-sufficient by providing assistance necessary to overcome temporary crises.
• The County invests $609,000 in aging services, leveraging $1.3 million in block grants to serve older adults in the community. Current efforts, such as strategic planning and coordination of the County funding plan for aging services, are essential as the total number of individuals age 60+ in Buncombe County is expected to nearly double by 2030, requiring expanded levels of resources, supports, and services for elderly populations.
The board will meet at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 18, 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.