The Buncombe County Board of Elections won’t officially certify the results until Friday, May 27, and the N.C. Board of Elections will issue its own certification Thursday, June 9. But even with those steps still to come, there’s plenty to learn from the unofficial results.
Requests outlined by Buncombe County Schools Superintendent Tony Baldwin and Asheville City Schools Superintendent Gene Freeman sought county government spending increases of up to $27.9 million, representing a nearly 32% jump from the county’s current contribution.
“Al has lived his life as a role model the way his parents raised him, by humbly and positively leading our community.”
Candidates for the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners District 1 Democratic 2022 primary share their positions with Xpress.
Buncombe will commit to creating or preserving between 2,800-3,150 affordable housing units by 2030, requiring new county investments of an estimated $54 million. Up to 1,850 of those units would be rental properties affordable to residents making 80% or less of the area median income.
In a unanimous vote, the county Board of Commissioners directed staff to maintain the county’s current library branches — including those in Black Mountain, Oakley/South Asheville and Swannanoa — and explore other ways to improve the system.
Residents who have owned their primary residence for at least five years and make no more than 80% of the area median income — $60,100 for a family of four — could apply for aid to cover property tax increases starting Sunday, Aug. 1.
“The last three superintendents we’ve had here, including you, have not brought anything but mayhem to the school system,” declared Buncombe Commissioner Al Whitesides to Asheville City Schools Superintendent Gene Freeman.
The two rural areas in the county’s northwest and southeast emerged as the biggest pockets of need after an extensive analysis by county staff of high-speed internet availability. A contract with an internet provider to expand service could go before the Board of Commissioners in July.
The ordinance drew over an hour of public comment, with the majority of speakers in favor of the law.
“The path we’re on right now is a collision that puts us backwards and actually takes classrooms offline,” said Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, regarding the Asheville City Schools plan to relocate preschool classrooms from Asheville Primary School to other elementary schools and Asheville Housing Authority developments.
Of Buncombe County’s roughly 1,600 employees, 465 are currently working remotely, and 283 have said they would continue to do so indefinitely if allowed. If those employees remained remote, the county would need about 22,700 fewer square feet of office space, allowing for more services to be consolidated in fewer buildings.
Al Whitesides, the sole Black member of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, and his three Democratic colleagues approved the resolution over the opposition of the board’s three Republicans. The county government is now aligned with Asheville City Council, which unanimously passed a similar measure on July 14.
After the city of Asheville enjoyed widespread national and international press for adopting a resolution in support of reparations for the Black community on July 14, Buncombe County may be next in line.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners remained divided along partisan lines. Chair Brownie Newman and his three Democratic colleagues voted for the removal of Confederate monuments at Pack Square Park and the county courthouse, as well as establishing a task force on the Vance Monument, while Republicans Joe Belcher, Anthony Penland and Robert Pressley voted against those moves.
The proposed general fund budget of nearly $335.65 million marks a 1.1% decrease from the current fiscal year’s $339.46 million total. To support those expenditures, the county would use more than $11.33 million of its fund balance, down roughly 23% from the $14.79 million in reserves spent this year.
Restaurants, pools and personal care services — including salons and barber shops — will be allowed to open at 50% capacity, while child care facilities, day camps and overnight camps can open with “enhanced cleaning and screening requirements.”
During their Dec. 3 meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners were told that while corrective measures to right years of financial mishandling are beginning to take hold, the county’s most recent audit still reflects the previous mismanagement.
The board tagged a higher overall population, greater burdens associated with chronic health conditions and obesity, growing racial gaps in academic achievement, a rising jail population, loss of farmland, higher housing costs and increased public health care spending as high-certainty, high-impact trends.