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%.
The spending reductions presented on April 21 by Budget Director Jennifer Barnette totaled about $1.5 million — less than 7% of an estimated $22 million gap between revenues and expenditures for fiscal year 2021 — in areas ranging from the Buncombe County Detention Center to information technology.
Due to the county’s heavy reliance on tourism — an industry especially vulnerable to travel and business restrictions imposed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 — Budget Director Jennifer Barnette estimated that April, May and June would all see sales tax receipts 35% less than in 2019.
The budget allocation approved during the meeting was double the $250,000 request listed on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners agenda, which was published on March 11. Of the new amount, $350,000 will go to public safety, with an additional $75,000 spent on both human services and general government.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved the proposal — including over $334.5 million in general fund spending, the portion primarily funded by property taxes — in a 6-1 vote at its June 18 regular meeting. Only Commissioner Mike Fryar cast his vote in opposition to the plan.
Buncombe’s current policy, said County Manager Avril Pinder, requires a fund balance of at least 15%, or $47.35 million. However, the projected fiscal 2020 budget would put the balance at 14.76%, and if a $5.25 million sale of county property on Ferry Road is delayed or falls through, the balance could drop to as little as 13.09%.