The $430.4 million general fund budget increases the property tax rate one cent to 49.8 cents per $100 of taxable value, or about 2%, resulting in the county’s highest tax rate since 2021.
The final fiscal year 2022-2023 budget ordinance, which includes over $398 million in general fund spending, calls for the same $81.9 million allocation to Buncombe County Schools proposed June 7.
“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.
By far the biggest contributor to Buncombe County’s spending growth in fiscal year 2022-23, accounting for $14.6 million of a projected $20.4 million in new general fund expenses, is salaries and benefits.
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.
Affordable housing, climate change, environmental protection and workforce apprenticeship programs were among the top focus areas identified by the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners during a Dec. 9 budget retreat at A-B Tech.
“The overall tax rate did go down some, but due to my taxable value going up — my total taxes are up 13.76%, and I’m sure theirs also significantly went up.”
Buncombe County’s fiscal year 2021-22 budget — passed unanimously by the Board of Commissioners on June 15 — includes an effective property tax increase of 2 cents per $100 of valuation. It also includes $300,000 toward property tax relief grants.
The draft document lists six high-level goals for both county government and the broader community, such as providing racial equity education and communication, improving quality-of-life outcomes through racial equity initiatives and establishing Buncombe as an equity inclusion model.
During a June 1 meeting, the county Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of agreement regarding the settlement of its litigation against pharmaceutical companies for their role in the opioid crisis.
If the vote takes place as planned, it would mark the second consecutive year in which the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved the budget immediately after the public hearing. Last year, Chair Brownie Newman noted that the board has historically allowed some time between the hearing and the vote to consider resident input.
The 20,000-square-foot facility, to be operated by A-B Tech, would “provide a pipeline of skilled workers prior to the plant opening, helping to recruit qualified candidates and pre-train and post-train employees.” The funding would come from future county bonds that would be repaid through local sales tax revenues.
For the median home in Buncombe County — worth $231,400 before revaluation and $291,000 now — the new rate would boost taxes by over 16%, from $1,224 to $1,423 per year. The percentage increase is greater than the roughly 14% rise commissioners approved in 2017.
If the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners were to maintain the property tax rate at 52.9 cents per $100 of assessed value for fiscal year 2021-22, noted Buncombe budget analyst Rusty Mau, the county would see about $237 million in property tax revenue, up nearly 12% from the $212 million budgeted for 2020-21.
At about $32.47 million, actual sales taxes through the end of the 2020 fiscal year were still down 3.2% from the budgeted target of more than $33.53 million. But during an April 7 budget work session, Budget Director Jennifer Barnette had projected sales tax revenue at just $30 million due to the impacts of the coronavirus, a decrease of more than 8.9%.
Over a dozen speakers ventured out on June 16 to share their thoughts during the COVID-19 era’s first county public hearing. The commissioners subsequently gave unanimous approval to a spending plan little modified from that recommended by County Manager Avril Pinder.
Data from the Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority shows that just 1,210 people boarded a plane at the airport in April, the latest month for which information is available. That number marks a 98% decrease from the 61,230 enplanements reported in April 2019.
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.