County manager recommends tax hike to balance 2024-25 budget

FISCAL AGENT: Buncombe County Manager Avril Pinder presented her 2024-25 budget to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners May 21, complete with a 2.55-cent property tax rate increase. Photo by Caleb Johnson

Buncombe County wants to increase spending by 1% next fiscal year, but to do so, the Board of Commissioners will have to raise taxes.

County Manager Avril Pinder’s proposed $441.9 million general fund budget, which still has to go through a public hearing and final vote next month, includes a 2.55-cent property tax rate increase next fiscal year. If passed, the new rate — 52.35 cents per $100 of value — would mean the owner of a home valued at $400,000 will pay $2,094 in taxes to the county, $102 more than last year. (Owners of property located in municipalities or various other special districts such as fire districts or Asheville City Schools will pay more.)

The $5.1 million spending increase includes a $4 million bump for the county’s largest expenditure, education. The county’s total K-12 education budget, which comes to about $117.2 million, will be split between Buncombe County Schools and Asheville City Schools. A-B Tech is slated to receive $8.4 million.

The increase submitted for schools pales compared with what BCS and ACS requested from the county at a work session May 9. In their proposals, BCS and ACS asked for $17.3 million more.

Instead, the county capped the education allocation to the revenue growth rate — 3.52% this year — based on rising sales and property values; a practice in place since 2019, according to county Budget Director John Hudson.

That’s atop the two-year increase to schools provided last year. Pinder included a 75-cent tax rate increase to cover it.

“At this point, if you’re going to give additional increases for the schools, you will need to have to cover that because we’ve been covering well above the revenue growth rate in the last five years,” Pinder said.

The proposed budget includes 30 new positions over the course of the year, including 13 in public safety, eight of them paramedics once new EMS bases open.

If approved, the proposed budget also includes a 4.89% cost-of-living raise for all county employees.

On the revenue side, the county faces a $5 million decrease from intergovernmental sources this year, partly because the state erred in calculating how much counties would recoup from the Medicaid rollout, Hudson said. Instead of getting 75 cents from insurance companies for every dollar spent, Buncombe was able to recoup closer to 50 cents for every dollar, he noted.

Pinder’s budget uses $11.8 million from the county’s reserves, down from the more than $18 million she used to balance last year’s budget. In the May 9 work session, Hudson said the county should use no more than $12 million from reserves to maintain a healthy fund balance.

SHORT-TERM PAUSE: Nancy Waldrop, chair of the Buncombe County Planning Board, right, gave an update to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners on the Planning Board’s decision to pause its decision on banning short-term rentals in the county. Also pictured is Planning Director Nathan Pennington. Photo by Caleb Johnson

If passed as proposed, the 52.35-cent tax rate would be the highest in Buncombe County since 2021, the year before property reassessments boosted tax revenues. That prompted commissioners to lower the rate by more than 4 cents, essentially keeping revenue neutral, according to county records.

A public hearing on the budget will be at the Tuesday, June 4, commission meeting, and it is scheduled for adoption Tuesday, June 18.

Short-term rental changes on hold

After three-plus months debating rule changes that would at least partially ban new short-term rentals from unincorporated Buncombe County, the Planning Board voted to table a decision on the changes at a meeting April 23.

Planning Board Chair Nancy Waldrop told commissioners May 21 that there was too much misinformation circulating in the public for the board to make an evenhanded decision on the matter while questions and reservations “remained unresolved.”

“There is no intention on the part of the Planning Board to forget about STRs. We do feel very strongly some regulations need to be enacted,” she said. “Whatever we do going forward, we also strongly feel that to be successful in gaining public confidence and acceptance of any action on short-term rentals, we will need a group effort, which includes interested community stakeholders sitting at the table and the ability to enforce whatever ordinances are adopted.”

Waldrop recommended the county establish a steering committee of between five and 10 stakeholders to discuss regulations in more detail.

Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman wanted to make sure any committee included an advocate from the affordable housing sector, not just those in real estate.

INCLUSION: Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman said the affordable housing advocates should be a part of any steering committee focused on changes to the county’s short-term rental rules. Photo by Caleb Johnson

“We have a housing crisis in our community. Who’s going to represent that concern?” Newman asked.

Commissioners Terri Wells and Parker Sloan questioned whether the Planning Board or Board of Commissioners would be responsible for putting together a steering committee or task force, as Commissioner Amanda Edwards called it.

Newman said that since no recommendation on the short-term rentals came from the Planning Board, it should continue leading the work, taking input from commissioners along the way.

“Let’s not get too many cooks in the kitchen. I think the Planning Board has done an excellent job, and you all can take this, and then bring it back to us when you’re ready,” added Commissioner Al Whitesides.

Commissioners approve new trash contract

Starting Jan. 1, a new company will be picking up trash from residents in Buncombe County. Commissioners voted 6-0 to approve a seven-year contract with FCC Environmental Services to replace WastePro as the county’s solid waste hauler.

The change means next year’s price for the service will increase by more than $3 a month for residents.

Residents will pay $28.65 a month in 2025. They currently pay $25.16 to WastePro. Monthly rates will remain the same in 2026 before rising by more than a dollar annually after that, depending on the consumer price index.

The new contract includes more accountability measures, with steep penalties if FCC doesn’t meet its responsibilities in the contract. The agreement allows for a one-year extension before a new contract is negotiated. FCC’s transition plan is due to the county Monday, July 1.



Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

8 thoughts on “County manager recommends tax hike to balance 2024-25 budget

  1. Think about it

    Such a poorly run county and city. It is a shame. But, the joke remains unfunny.

  2. Gene Loflin

    We need to get rid of the tax and spend commissioners funding their pet projects.

  3. Gene Loflin

    We need to get rid of the tax and spend commissioners who want to drain the working citizens to pay for their pet projects.

    • John

      Are you the Gene Loflin from A-B Tech who makes over $110K annually and in the top 7 highest paid employees? Your salary is public information and you make well over the annual median income in Buncombe county. While you work, you are not working class.

      • ACS school board hopeful

        Education funding is the largest expense in the budget and A-B Tech is set to receive over $8 million. Are you saying education funding is a pet project of the commissioners? I am glad they prioritize our schools and think they could do even more.

  4. WNC

    There are about 14.5% less students in BCS than 12 years ago. The question BCS avoids is why are students and parents leaving BCS? Maybe they prefer education to woke social constructs.
    This statistic of 14.5% less students is staggering but deceptive because of the large number of 1st generation students who have enrolled in schools during this time frame.

    • luther blissett

      “I have no idea what is being taught in local schools and I certainly have no intention of finding out. I do however have a vivid imagination.”

  5. Bright

    What a crock of smoke and mirrors. Let them give themselves their groveling pay raises…then get out of Asheville. Citizens can run the show better and less costly than the cartel in charge right now.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.