Members of Asheville City Council discussed transit, parking revenues, personnel costs and weighed funding options for the newly approved updates to Memorial Stadium.
As in previous years, members of the public both applauded the city for funding long-promised initiatives, such as the 2018 Transit Master Plan and increases to firefighter pay, and voiced concern over how other taxpayer money would be spent.
Some additional revenue will be needed to fund a growing list of priorities for the 2021-22 annual operating budget, city staffers suggested at an April 27 Asheville City Council budget work session.
At its April 13 meeting, Council will decide whether to purchase 21 acres of land intended for affordable housing using $1.6 million generated from the December sale of city-owned land acquired through urban renewal policies.
The latest executive order from Gov. Roy Cooper raises the indoor mass gathering limit from 25 to 50 people and the outdoor mass gathering limit from 50 to 100. All North Carolina adults will become eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations on Wednesday, April 7.
Asheville has contracted with consultants Shemekka Ebony and Christine Edwards to host six “equity-focused budget engagement” sessions for community members. The pair previously facilitated the city’s “Reimagining Public Safety” engagement efforts in the fall.
“This could be a catastrophic change in revenue year over year,” said Mayor Esther Manheimer about projections for fiscal year 2021. “Before we start spending new money, I want to know if we’re going to see a little bit of a normalization on the horizon. I don’t want to be sitting here with a $20 million deficit in the next fiscal year.”
“Anybody that follows the economy or follows the news will tell you that there’s a big elephant in the room that we can’t measure, and we’re all thinking about it, and it’s going to affect your planning,” Tom Tveidt, president of SYNEVA Economics, told Council members at their March 13 annual retreat. “That being said, I think there will be a pre-coronavirus economy and a post-coronavirus economy.”
“This may hurt some feelings, but you can no longer operate the city of Asheville like it’s the Oprah Winfrey talk show, where you get a car and you get a car,” said Council member Keith Young, referencing the daytime TV host’s famous giveaways. “As much as we love all these programs and trying to help the public good… this is the time to close the bank.”
Beginning Aug. 28 and continuing through Tuesday, Dec. 11, a series of monthly meetings will explain to City Council members and the public how Asheville allocates over $180 million to provide a range of services. The first session set the general context for the budget through a discussion of community demographics and major city revenue streams.