At its meeting of Tuesday, Aug. 3, the county Board of Commissioners will vote on a more than $665,000 budget amendment to support regional vaccination efforts. The money includes a new allocation of $75,000 from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as over $590,000 in unspent funds from last fiscal year.
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.
In Asheville and Buncombe County, the return to in-person government meetings has also meant a return to in-person public comment — and the end of live remote comment, despite there being no technological obstacle to continuing the practice. The decision has drawn concern from citizens who say it reduces their ability for civic participation.
“They always tell you what you want to hear to get their foot in the door.”
Although the county completed a strategic plan last year, which outlines general governmental goals, it does not have a comprehensive plan, which primarily evaluates land use and infrastructure. State law requires the adoption of such a document by July 2022.
House Bill 412 would enable the two Haywood County municipalities to levy a 2% occupancy tax on accommodations like hotels, motels and Airbnbs, which would then be managed by new town-specific tourism development authorities.
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.
“Every family and household, all children, each person — especially without convenient auto or bus access — needs a library that is easy to reach and use in physical, interpersonal and electronic ways to foster this kind of democratic interaction.”
At a June 10 meeting of the Council of Independent Business Owners, Republican Sen. Chuck Edwards said he had “come around to the way of thinking of the folks in the county” who want less of the tax to go toward tourism marketing.
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.
“Buncombe County can no longer afford peace on Earth.”
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.
“The funds would be used to help farmers and others in the county place their grasslands and forests under conservation easements to preserve them for future generations.”
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 potential closure and sale of the APS campus had drawn intense community pushback since being initially recommended as a cost-saving measure by Superintendent Gene Freeman on Dec. 7.
“Buncombe County as a whole is actively ‘paving paradise to put up a parking lot.'”
“You can call on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners to rescind the $27 million incentive agreement with Pratt & Whitney, and invest in such things as affordable housing, small businesses and schools, along with commitment to transparency on such major decisions.”
Specifics on how the Asheville City Schools system spends its local allocation (at over $5,800 per student, the second-highest in North Carolina) and its plans to reduce costs have been hard to come by — and may have been concealed in violation of state open meetings law during a May 18 special closed session of the Asheville City Board of Education.
Projected capital investment costs for implementing the library plan total at least $81 million over the next 15 years, including nearly $18 million for a new 25,000-square-foot facility in Enka/Candler and over $16 million for a new building of the same size in West Asheville.
“Other cities have used their occupancy taxes to direct millions to infrastructure and social programs while still supporting vibrant tourism industries. Why can’t we?”
“The game is rigged to exploit us, and the promise of jobs for a few is the currency to get communities to comply.”