According to data presented by Tim Love, Buncombe’s director of economic development and governmental relations, the county’s poverty rate went up from about 11.5% in 2018 — its lowest point in a decade — to about 13.9% in 2020, the latest year for which information was available. Poverty in both North Carolina and the overall U.S. fell over the same period.
Opportunity zones offer tax breaks to investors who put money to work in areas designated as economically depressed — including parts of every Western North Carolina county. The latest edition of Xpress’ WTF feature takes a deeper look into the significance and consequences of the program.
The county’s ad hoc reappraisal committee, tasked with reviewing allegations that Buncombe’s tax assessment process was unfair to low-income residents and communities of color, presented its recommendations to the board. And commissioners approved annual funding for reparations, honoring a request from the joint Asheville-Buncombe Community Reparations Commission.
In response to a report by Asheville-based planning firm Urban3, Newman tasked county Tax Assessor Keith Miller with forming an ad hoc committee to provide guidance for future tax assessments and identify potential equity concerns. The committee presented its recommendations to the county July 19.
A 10-month review, designed to address citizen complaints and equity concerns about Buncombe County’s approach to property assessment, is scheduled to conclude at the Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday, July 19.
Mobile-home owners can now receive the grants, while those who own multiple dwellings or receive other tax reductions will no longer be eligible. Those with “liquid resources” (cash or financial assets that could be converted to cash within a week) of more than $60,000 will also be disqualified, a change from the terms recommended by county staff.
Asheville City Schools maintains its increased preschool tuition — as much as $275 per month for some families — are in line with those of other local programs.
“We still have to work other jobs to make ends meet,” said Melanie Allen, a 26-year veteran of BCS’ technology department. “We’re struggling. We feel like nobody cares. Morale is low. We have watched other counties and agencies enable steps and raises. We’re keep thinking we’re next, that we’ll be able to make it. Then nothing happens.”
A letter drafted by Chair Brownie Newman and scheduled for a June 7 vote of approval by the full Board of Commissioners urges state regulators to favor nonprofit health care systems over HCA Healthcare, which owns Mission, when considering applications to build new hospital capacity.
At the recommendation of the county board’s Environment & Energy Stewardship Subcommittee, which includes board Chair Brownie Newman along with Commissioners Parker Sloan and Terri Wells, members will vote on whether to commit to conserving 20% of Buncombe’s total acreage by 2030.
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.
As presented to the Buncombe Board of Commissioners during a March 29 work session, County Manager Avril Pinder hopes to expand her current staff of over 1,600 employees by more than 70 in the next budget cycle, which starts in July.
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.
Safety and reducing criminal activity downtown closely followed homelessness among the top concerns. Survey respondents were asked to evaluate downtown in terms of how safe they felt. The average score was 3.5 out of 5 for perceived safety during the daytime, dropping to 1.9 out of 5 at night.
According to a presentation available before the meeting of Tuesday, March 15, the county hopes to “impact 2,800-3,150 affordable housing units by 2030,” including 1,500-1,850 new rental units affordable for households making 80% or less of the area median income ($42,100 for an individual or $60,100 for a family of four).
Although the U.S. Forest Service has recommended that most of Big Ivy be managed for conservation or recreation, approximately 4,000 acres in the North Fork and Snowball Mountain areas has been flagged for potential logging.
Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, who chairs the county board’s Early Childhood and Development Committee, outlined a plan for $7.5 million in additional spending on pre-K expansion over the next two years. Funding would come from the county’s roughly $27 million in remaining federal American Rescue Plan Act money.
Buncombe County’s current indoor mask mandate has been extended three times after going into effect Aug. 18. Robert Pressley, the only Republican on the Board of Commissioners, has thus far been the only member opposed in any of those votes.
Conducted by the ETC Institute, a Kansas-based consultancy, a recent survey aimed to evaluate resident perceptions of the county and its administration.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners members unanimously voted Jan. 4 to extend the county’s indoor mask mandate through Wednesday, Feb. 16. The extended mask requirement does not contain any language regarding enforcement, nor does it specify the type of face covering that residents should wear, despite health experts saying cloth masks are insufficient against the omicron variant of the coronavirus.