Lower-than-expected Mission tax revenues crunch Asheville budget

Mission Hospital
REVENUE RX?: The city of Asheville will receive millions less than expected in taxes from Mission Health's sale to for-profit HCA Healthcare. Photo by Virginia Daffron

The proverbial chickens of Mission Health’s sale to for-profit HCA Healthcare have hatched, yielding considerably fewer birds than Asheville City Council first counted. At a budget work session on March 26, city CFO Barbara Whitehorn reported that Asheville can expect to receive $2.5 million in property and sales taxes from the health system in fiscal year 2019-20 — only half of the $5 million initially estimated by the Buncombe County tax office — then $5 million instead of $8 million for every year to follow.

The lower numbers, explained Mayor Esther Manheimer, are more accurate because they are based on the correct portfolio of Mission Health assets. Previous estimates, she said, had included taxes on property outside of Buncombe County jurisdiction. “This is a little bit earth-shattering for news,” the mayor remarked.

While the revised estimated revenue would still leave Asheville with a budget surplus through fiscal year 2021, it gives Council significantly less leeway to add new initiatives and address the strategic goals prioritized at its recent retreat. After accounting for the city’s structural funding gap and increases to its base budget, Whitehorn said, only about $1.5 million remains for discretionary projects.

The most expensive of these new initiatives is the partial implementation of the Transit Master Plan, estimated at $1.2 million. Whitehorn said the money would go toward reconfiguring routes and addressing on-time performance, as well as providing technical support and conducting a study on a new bus maintenance facility. Initial plans called for a $2.4 million budget increase, which would have also extended transit service hours by 44 percent starting on July 1.

“We certainly wish that we could implement fully the entire first phase of the plan. I’ve been a strong proponent of transit; I think it supports lots of goals,” said City Manager Debra Campbell. “But we just have limited resources and we are trying to do those things that have the most significant impact on the customer experience.”

Whitehorn framed a number of smaller budget asks as a choice among projects, plans and staff. The first package included money for a small-business training program, facility maintenance and a fund for small fire department purchases such as defibrillators and breathing apparatus. The second grouping paired a solid waste reduction plan and design services for the Haywood/Page “Pit of Despair” property, while the third would add three new city employees to handle sanitation code enforcement, zoning updates and sustainability coordination.

Council did not reach a consensus around which of these funding requests to support, asking for more information about each and noting that the process will continue through June. “There’s millions of dollars out there that we could spend,” said Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler. “All these various items are all very crucial, and it’s just a matter of figuring out which are the most crucial.”

The next budget work session, which will discuss Asheville’s capital improvement plan and enterprise funds, will take place in council chambers at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, April 9. The public hearing on the budget will occur at Council’s regular meeting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28.


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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the former news editor of Mountain Xpress. His work has also appeared in Sierra, The Guardian, and Civil Eats, among other national and regional publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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12 thoughts on “Lower-than-expected Mission tax revenues crunch Asheville budget

  1. Karen Smith

    “The lower numbers, explained Mayor Esther Manheimer, are more accurate because they are based on the correct portfolio of Mission Health assets. Previous estimates, she said, had included taxes on property outside of Buncombe County jurisdiction. “This is a little bit earth-shattering for news,” the mayor remarked.”

    Well. So who included tax income on property outside of Buncombe County and included those taxes in Buncombe County’s tax income projections? Isn’t it about time someone in the city (and the county) does some at least semi-correct estimating on something (think RAD, for one).

    Since this is “a little bit earth shattering”, how about we stop spending money like drunken sailors on things we don’t need and try to maintain those things we have to have? I can live without a greenway for a year or two. I could live without Charlotte St. being reduced to two lanes until the end of time. How many other projects can we do without to keep from going bankrupt? Is there really anyone running this city (and county)? It doesn’t seem like it.

    • Richard B.

      Karen asks, rhetorically, “is there really anyone running this city (and county)?” Well, Karen nailed it with her comment above, however,
      she is too kind. She knows the answer, which is, Democrats. Very little business experience or sense.
      Like beneficiaries when Rich Uncle dies, supposedly leaving $1,000,000 to his nephews and nieces, who as he lays dying, rush out
      and buy Tesla’s. When the Will is read, they learn that figure is way high, not thinking that he might leave some to charity. OH DEAR!
      Yes, that is the mentality, apparently, of our elected officials.

      • luther blissett

        Government by definition isn’t a business. Businesses choose their markets and customers. Municipalities don’t.

        • Richard B.

          PEOPLE who run governments/municipalities determine how to SPEND taxpayers monies to improve the standard of living and life style within that community. Like PEOPLE in business organizations, who determine how best to spend profits to grow the business. Same idea.
          Would you settle for PEOPLE with some sort of business SENSE.? It is, after all, about the MONEY.

          • luther blissett

            Using ALL CAPS doesn’t HELP your argument.

            “who determine how best to spend profits”

            Thanks for spelling out how your argument collapses. Businesses choose their markets and customers (and key expenditures). Municipalities don’t. If local government were run like a business, it would shut down the police and fire departments ($55 million p.a. or 45% of General Fund expenditures) and tell its “customers” to hire private security and fit sprinklers.

    • Enlightened Enigma

      only incompetent elected criminals, Karen…like always…no leadership in AVL for decades really shows…


    Previous estimates included Mission property outside of Buncombe county?? Who did these estimates and how could they have missed this obvious error? Maybe the same staff that did the property value estimates on the RADTIP project?
    The lack of fiscal responsibility and fiduciary responsibility upheld by our leaders would be laughable if it wasn’t so concerning. It sure would be nice if the city had some budget workshops outside of normal working hours so working citizens could attend.

  3. C-Law


    That’s just beautiful! :)

    The point is…The people of Asheville have gotten EXACTLY the City Government they DESERVE!!

    Will folks with any sense ever vote with their feet and secede physically from Asheville? Will they peacefully overthrow the current leftist gangsters and their crony capitalist developer allies?

    “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

    I’m doubtful, but the headlines regarding the mismanagement of the city are certainly interesting to follow.

    BTW–When will council get to work on paying out my reparations?! I’m owed! :)

    • DreadT

      “Will folks with any sense ever vote with their feet and secede physically from Asheville?” Only if they are wearing shoes. I’d hate to hear disease has been spread to other regions via the shoeless from Asheville

  4. Neill timmons

    Not sure how you make a 2.5 million dollar error in estimations. I also don’t see how we are soooo reliable on the sale of mission. You would think our budget was set to handle our basic needs, and this sale would be extra for additional and potentially unnecessary projects. Creating a budget for money that we weren’t even sure we would have doesn’t make sense at all.

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