Council to hear residents’ input on bond referendum; take deciding vote

Asheville city seal

The city has jumped through a series of state-mandated hoops to get to this point. Now all that separates City Council from approving a $74 million bond referendum package is a public hearing and a series of votes, all of which are on the agenda for Council’s regular meeting on Aug. 9.

July 26 was the deadline for the city to adjust the amount it hopes to borrow in each category, city Chief Financial Officer Barbara Whitehorn said on Friday. At its upcoming meeting, Council members will decide whether to put the $32 million transportation, $25 million affordable housing and $17 million parks and recreation funding packages before voters.

If Council approves all three of those categories, Whitehorn explained, current projections indicate that an increase of 4.15 cents to the current city property tax rate of 47.5 cents per $100,000 of property value will be needed to pay for the new debt. The average house in Asheville is worth $275,000, so the increase would add about $114 to that owner’s annual property taxes.

But the tax rate implications of one variable — a county-wide tax revaluation currently underway — won’t be known until January. Whitehorn said her projections are based on a 1.5 percent increase in the total value of property in the city. If property values grow more than 1.5 percent, the tax rate increase needed to pay for the bonds would be lower, but that’s because the taxes overall would rise more.

The situation of each individual property is different, said Whitehorn, making it difficult to predict the tax impact of the bond on any specific taxpayer.

An overview of the projects Council and city staff have proposed for each bond category is available on the city’s blog. At Council’s July 26 meeting, Council member Gordon Smith asked his fellow members to weigh in on their “appetite” for including funding for updating or replacing the city’s transit center in the transportation bond package.

Whitehorn explained that feasibility or planning studies (which haven’t yet been performed for renovating or replacing the transit center) are generally not approved for bond funding by the Local Government Commission, except as part of a larger project. The amount of funding in the transportation package, she continued, could not at that point be increased. But the city does have flexibility in how the money is used, as long as money in each category is used for projects in that category.

Other Council members expressed support for exploring measures to improve the transit center, but Mayor Esther Manheimer sounded a note of caution, saying “It’s important to have community trust that we will spend the money on what we say we will spend it on.”

Included within the documents for the Aug. 9 meeting of Council is a proposal from city Transportation Director Ken Putnam to allocate $1 million of the $32 million transportation bond funds to renovate the existing transit center facility. The money would come, Putnam writes in a memo, from “removing one new sidewalk project (Patton Avenue gaps – $616,000) and reducing the funding for Greenway connectors, linkages, and extensions by $384,000 to make up the $1,000,000.”

Consent agenda

Council’s consent agenda includes a resolution to renew the city’s contract to provide policing in Asheville’s 11 public housing neighborhoods in conjunction with the city housing authority. The previous agreement, which expired in 2015, provided a police unit of nine sworn officers. The city bears the cost of five of those officers ($330,000), while the housing authority reimburses the city for the salary and benefit costs associated with four of the officers ($260,000).

Council also will consider a $25,000 funding request from The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design to support a market analysis regarding artist housing and creative spaces uses for the Center’s facilities, to be conducted by Artspace, a nonprofit that has developed artist live/work space throughout the country.

According to a memo prepared by Jeff Staudinger, the city’s assistant director of community and economic development:

The proposed cost of the study is $98,325. Partner commitments to funding include $10,000 from State Senator Terry Van Duyn and $10,000 from the Duke Energy Foundation pending City and County financial support. The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina has invited a $25,000 grant request. Should the City agree to the $25,000 funding request, CCCD would move forward with the first phase, at a cost of $44,850, and continue fundraising to achieve the full two-part study.

Council plans to appoint a member to the city’s Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy and the Environment (SACEE) after interviewing three candidates prior to Council’s regular meeting. Other board and commission openings include the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, the Recreation Board and the Tourism Development Authority (must be an owner or operator of a hotel, motel, bed and breakfast or vacation rental management company with less than 100 rental units). The deadline to apply is Wednesday, Aug. 31 at 5 p.m. Call 259-5601 for an application form.

A previously scheduled public hearing to consider an amendment to Chapter 7 of the Code of Ordinances to establish requirements for utility substations has been continued to Sept. 6.

City Council meets at 5 p.m. in Council chambers on the second floor of Asheville City Hall. The full agenda and supporting documents can be found here.


About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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17 thoughts on “Council to hear residents’ input on bond referendum; take deciding vote

  1. HRH

    MORE and MORE EXTRA TAXPAYER MONEY that *HAS* to be spent to POLICE the biggest blights in Asheville – public housing!

    WHY oh WHY must the Asheville TAXPAYERS SUFFER such crap year in year out ? ? ?

    • bsummers

      Why oh why must XPress readers suffer a new Fred ‘Fisher’ Caudle sockpuppet every week?

          • bsummers

            How very adult of you, my dear progressive.

            What a weird reply. I stated that what you said was not true. How is that ‘adult’ or not?

            But back to the topic – readers have a right to know, IMO, that a commenter who’s complaining about the costs of public housing, is also the person who has made blatantly racist comments in the past, such as calling the African-American President of the United States “Obongo”. That’s relevant – it’s not an “attack”, and it’s not “off-topic”.

          • The Real World

            African-American President — point of clarification. He is bi-racial.

            It is truly an example of how off-the-rails the whole race thing has become when the other half of him is ignored. Some would call that racist. Just sayin…….

          • Peter Robbins

            Oh great. Now he’s going to start saying Obawna.

  2. HRH

    because it bothers YOU and no other, Barry…are you on LinkedIn ?

  3. NFB

    It’s pretty amazing to think that the MX web site used to be a place for intelligent discussion.

  4. Big Al

    Maybe when the citizenry see intelligent action from the City Council, they will begin to respond intelligently.

    Until then, Garbage In gets Garbage Out.

  5. HRH

    Prepare to Vote NO on the bond scam…they’ve wasted enough money on poor management for decades.

  6. luther blissett

    I’ve said my piece about the benefits of bond funding in the current economic climate and the problems of the affordable housing component, and won’t repeat it.

    More generally, it’s important for the council to avoid “mission creep” here. As Gwen Wisler suggested in earlier discussions, and the mayor suggests here, it’s vital to retain focus, and tinkering with plans at this stage is a very good way to undermine confidence. It doesn’t matter if the bond categories allow flexibility: if renovating the transit center isn’t already a costed project, then its funding either needs to come out of general revenues or from any savings on costed transportation projects.

  7. I’m sure county residents are highly supportive of city taxpayers improving the parks and roads that they use. The gap has become absurd.

    And let’s keep building sidewalks far away from the core where the vast majority of the walking actually occurs. Why would you want sidewalks downtown that allow one to cross the street without going several blocks to avoid jaywalking? Why wouldn’t you want utility poles in the middle of sidewalks? Why wouldn’t the poles be underground as promised decade+ ago?

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