County considers raising taxes to balance budget

TAX HIKE: Buncombe County property owners may be looking at a tax hike next fiscal year. The currently proposed budget contains a $13.9 million funding gap between expenditures and revenues. Screenshot courtesy of Buncombe County

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners may have to raise property taxes this year.

Less than two weeks before County Manager Avril Pinder must present a balanced budget to commissioners on Tuesday, May 21, the county has a $13.9 million funding gap in its projected operating budget, without considering requested increases for schools.

Since its previous April 23 work session, county staff has trimmed the budget by $2.6 million to $442.3 million, said John Hudson, Buncombe’s budget director. Those cuts could be bolstered by reducing the cost-of-living adjustment for county staff from a 4.89% boost to a 4.32% increase, which could save an additional about $800,000, according to Hudson’s presentation.

Pinder admitted that reducing the cost-of-living adjustment gave her heartburn because it had been previously promised to staff, but she understood that commissioners had some hard decisions to make in a tight budget year. Commission Chair Brownie Newman said commissioners needed more time before they signed off on the suggested cost-of-living adjustment.

To help boost the revenue side of the ledger, staff recommended using no more than $12 million of its reserves next year to maintain at least 15% of annual expenditures in savings, as required by county policy. That would bring county revenues, including the additional reserves, to $428.5 million.

The resulting gap would require commissioners to increase property taxes by 2.6 cents per $100 of taxable value to balance the budget, Hudson said. That means the owner of a home valued at $400,000 will pay $104 more in taxes compared with the previous year.

Commissioners could cut down on that tax increase by a whole penny per $100 of taxable value by pausing the allocation of funds for four programs next fiscal year, Hudson suggested. Commissioners gave consent for staff to leave $100,000 in clean water fund grants, $1 million for broadband expansion and more than $1.9 million in post-employment benefits unfunded next fiscal year.

Newman asked for more time to think over the fourth option, more than $2.3 million for the Affordable Housing Services Program.

The discussion about the county’s financial realities came after presentations from Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools, in which both districts asked commissioners for increased funding in 2024-25.

ACS is seeking $3.8 million in additional funding, and BCS asked for about a $13.5 million increase.

Collectively, Buncombe County sent $113.3 million to K-12 education in 2023-24, the largest allocation in recent history.

County staff recommended a $3.99 million increase for K-12 schools, which would require another property tax increase of 75 cents per $100 of taxable value.

If both tax increases were approved without further spending cuts, the increase of 3.35 cents per $100 of taxable value amounts to the owner of a home valued at $400,000 paying an extra $134 a year in property taxes.

“Every year we’re raising taxes for schools. And I know how important schools are. But we’ve got to think of the taxpayers, too,” said Commissioner Al Whitesides.

Pinder will present a balanced budget at the regular commission meeting Tuesday, May 21. The budget will go through a public hearing Tuesday, June 4, before being adopted Tuesday, June 18.


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7 thoughts on “County considers raising taxes to balance budget

  1. Think about it

    This isn’t balancing a budget. You cannot continually raise property taxes and not see eventually see the negative effects.

  2. Bright

    Embarrassing lack of planning…as usual. Where do these people come from, and isn’t any advanced education necessary to be “on the board?” Let’s get creative in commenting on this one.

  3. indy499

    In the real non-governmental world where you aren’t playing with someone else’s money, one learns to prioritize and optimize within the constraint of expected revenue.

    Government just keeps adding activities which never are post evaluated and whine for tax increases.

  4. Hiram

    Horrible business model. With all the beer and tourism cash flowing through here, our taxes should actually be far lower…in a real world sensible business model.

  5. gapple

    Always raising taxes is what progressive leftist democrats always do. Don’t outspend your income. Make the hard choices that private companies have to make when income isn’t paying the bills.

  6. Jim

    Funny these swindlers “have to raise taxes”, right after raising my appraisal 150%. Meanwhile the cost of everything but wages had doubled due to America’s big mistake last election. The consequences always are avoided by the grifters making the plans, they are just passed down to those that have no say in them.

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