Drugs, teacher pay, budget, preschool and more: County Commissioners to talk priorities during retreat

BUDGET TALKS: The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners is getting into the thick of its budget process as it heard requests from A-B Tech and Asheville City Schools during its meeting Tuesday, May 2
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners has reach a settlement with an insurer over life insurance policies purchased by former County Manager Wanda Greene. Photo courtesy of Buncombe County Photo courtesy of Buncombe County

On the heels of a joint meeting with Asheville City Council, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will hold its annual retreat on Friday, Feb. 17. The meeting, while official, does not have any action items on the docket. But commissioners will discuss policy issues they would like to prioritize in the upcoming years.

Commission Chair Brownie Newman told other commissioners, via email: “The goal is to identify issues, concerns and priorities that the Commission wants to focus on in 2017 and 2018. We will also discuss some of our internal processes to see if we want to update any of our policies and procedures.”

Some of those issues are:

  • Access to preschool
  • Responding to opioid use in Buncombe County
  • Continuing to support teachers via increased pay in the upcoming budget
  • Supporting greenway expansion in Woodfin and the River Arts District.

Commissioners will also discuss county departmental needs and talk about the budget procedure. In light of the recent reappraisal, in which the county’s property tax base grew by $6.8 billion since the last reevaluation in 2013, a preview of what commissioners are thinking about doing with the property tax rate might be on deck. Right now the rate is 60.4 cents per $100 of valued property. The current budget, for fiscal year 2017, ends on June 30, and budget workshops are likely to get underway starting next month.

The retreat is open to the public, and slated for Friday, Feb. 17, from 8:30 a.m.-noon, and will be held on the first floor of 200 College St.

The agenda is listed below (along with notes from Newman to other commissioners via email):

Buncombe County Commissioners Retreat
Friday, Feb 17, 8:30 AM to Noon.

Discussion of ground rules for the day:
This an official meeting of the County Commission but we are not expecting to formally vote on any issues. The goal is to identify issues, concerns and priorities that the Commission wants to focus on in 2017 and 2018. We will also discuss some of our internal processes to see if we want to update any of our policies and procedures.

Opening discussion of issues, concerns and opportunities:
1.    What makes you excited about serving on the Buncombe County Commission?
2.    What are some of the key issues you would like to see Buncombe County make progress on over the next two years? What are your top three? Others?
a.    Follow up: are there specific policy ideas you would like for the Commission to consider to address those issues?
b.    What type of information or analysis do you think we need as a Commission to address the issue?
3.    Are there any other concerns within any of the three Districts that we need to address?
4.    Specific topics:
a.    Land use, planning and development and transportation
b.    Public Safety
c.    Health and Human Services – presentation on equity
d.    Parks and Recreation
e.    Schools and education
f.    Economic development
g.    Others?

Discussion: Process and Procedures:
5.    Budget process
6.    Placing items on the agenda
7.    Criteria for items being on the consent agenda
8.    Personnel Policies
9.    Commission policy on adoption of resolutions on state and Federal issues.
10.    Snow policy
11.    Community engagement: Are there any other organizations the Commission would like to meet with (ie. similar to our meeting with Asheville City Council?)
12.    Any others?

In addition to the items listed in my earlier email, I also want to list the specific “priority issues” that have already been identified by some of the Commissioners. In an email a couple weeks ago, I asked Commissioner to think about what their top three issues/concerns are for the coming year. The issues that have been mentioned thus far include:

• Expanding support to tested programs and innovations that help kids survive and thrive, including expanding Pre-K and efforts to reduce infant mortality.
• Promoting equity of opportunity with particular attention to structural issues; such as job development, vital neighborhoods, and affordable housing.
• Responding to the opioid crisis across disciplines.
• Implementing policies and practices in Buncombe County that promote retention and help to recruit a talented and diverse workforce (e.g. expanded paid leave policies; family friendly polices)
• Access to Pre K
• Continued work on equity
• Create a county sustainability/ clean energy office to support implementation of the energy innovation task force goals.
• Follow through on commitment to increase teacher pay in the 2017/2018 budget.
• Provide support to expedite planning and completion of the Greenway system in Woodfin and south to the River Arts Districts.

I expect most of these issues to be covered as discuss the Commissioner priorities.


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About Dan Hesse
I grew up outside of Atlanta and moved to WNC in 2001 to attend Montreat College. After college, I worked at NewsRadio 570 WWNC as an anchor/reporter and covered Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners starting in 2004. During that time I also completed WCU's Master of Public Administration program. You can reach me at dhesse@mountainx.com.

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One thought on “Drugs, teacher pay, budget, preschool and more: County Commissioners to talk priorities during retreat

  1. Deplorable Infidel

    If county commissioners’ top three issues don’t include school system consolidation then they are not representing the best interests of the taxpayers of Buncombe Co.

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