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Stay on the pulse of the decisions being made at meetings for Asheville City Council and Buncombe County Commission, with reports from BPR’s Laura Hackett.

Last Night at Commission: Buncombe County unveils proposed FY2025 budget

Audience members listen during the May 21 Buncombe County Commission meeting.
Felicia Sonmez
Audience members listen during the May 21 Buncombe County Commission meeting.

The proposed Buncombe County budget for the 2025 fiscal year increases spending for education, public safety and cultural and recreational programs.

On Tuesday County Manager Avril Pinder presented the county’s $441.9 million budget, which includes a property tax increase of 2.55 cents per $100 of assessed value, as well as a 4.89% cost of living adjustment for county staff.

“To compensate for the slow growth and the uncertain economic times, we asked departments to take a critical look at their operations and scale back or delay any expanded services,” Pinder said at the meeting. “This resulted in overall 1% growth in county operations while maintaining continued investments in priorities.”

Currently, property owners in most parts of Buncombe County are taxed at a rate of 49.8 cents per $100 of assessed value. The proposed budget would raise the rate to 52.35 cents. Of that increase, 1.8 cents would go toward County Operations, while 0.75 cents would go toward K-12 education.

A screenshot from the Buncombe County FY2025 budget presentation.
Buncombe County Commission
A screenshot from the Buncombe County FY2025 budget presentation.

The last time property taxes were raised was 2023, when the County Commission approved a 1 cent increase, according to Mountain Xpress.

Pinder said some of the challenges the county faced this year were similar to last year, including high inflation, housing affordability and high cost of living. There were also new challenges, including the end of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds and low unemployment.

Overall, the proposed 2025 fiscal year budget would see a 1% increase in expenditures over the prior budget. Among the recommended investments:

  • Eight additional paramedics
  • Increased support for the Sheriff’s Office co-responder unit
  • An increase of $3.4 million in funding for Buncombe County Schools and $623,000 for Asheville City Schools
  • $3.9 million in early childhood programs
  • Several new positions in the Division of Social Services, including an additional staff member to manage Medicaid expansion
  • $3.3 million in behavioral health investments through opioid settlement funding
  • One additional code enforcement position in the Planning Department
  • An additional $300,000 in funding for election administration

The 2025 fiscal year starts July 1 and continues through the end of June 2025. A public hearing on the budget will be held at the next County Commission meeting on June 4, with a final vote scheduled for June 18.
To read the full budget presentation, click here. And for a comprehensive primer on the Buncombe County budget process, click here.

County approves contract with FCC Environmental Services

A bear in an East Asheville neighborhood Tuesday, May 21, 2024.
Laura Lee
A bear in an East Asheville neighborhood Tuesday, May 21, 2024.

Commissioners approved a contract with FCC Environmental Services, a solid waste management provider that will take over from the current provider, Waste Pro, in January.

The contract, which includes weekly trash pickup and bi-weekly recycling, runs through the end of 2031. The commission declined to extend Waste Pro’s contract after it proposed raising monthly rates to $32 from $25.16 over the next two years.

The monthly FCC rate for basic service will be $28.65 for 2025-2026.

According to the agreement, new rollout carts will be provided to residents, with more details to come in the next few months. Bear-resistant trash carts will also be available for purchase ($320) or lease ($10.16 a month).

Planning Board still mulling next steps on short-term rentals

Commissioners also heard from the planning board about the latest developments in the short-term rental policy proposal. Planning Board Chair Nancy Waldrop explained why the board decided last month to postpone a vote on the proposed regulations.

“The more discussion we had, it led to the conclusion that the situation was too complex to rush, with too many ramifications and unforeseen consequences,” Waldrop said.

She told the commissioners that there were also “too many misperceptions by the public, largely due to too much misinformation being circulated and promoted, making it seem kind of fruitless to put forth a package when we had so many questions and reservations left unresolved.”

Waldrop asked the commissioners for help assembling a community task force, but members said they would like the planning board to take the lead on gathering public input.

“Let’s not get too many cooks in the kitchen,” Commissioner Al Whitesides said. “I think the planning board has done an excellent job. And you all can take this and then bring it back to us when it’s ready to go. And if we have any input, we can give it to them, but I don’t want us to get too far in the weeds.”

The board voted in late April to delay 100 days, with the option to extend another 100 days when that time expires. The next step on the regulations remains uncertain. Board Chairman Brownie Newman asked the planning board staff to provide an update on the status of the draft regulations at a future meeting.

Other tidbits

  • Commissioners voted to establish new Affordable Housing general obligation (GO) bond projects, including Rocky River Apartments, Asheville Affordable Pine Lane, Laurel Wood and Lofts at Swannanoa.
  • GO bond funding was also allocated for two Open Space projects: Deaverview Mountain & Ferry Road Open Space.
  • The County Commission appointed Jay Richardson, Carol Steen and Greg Lowe to the Economic Development Coalition; Kasee Metcalf to the Health & Human Services Board; and Carl Ricker Jr. to the Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority.

Every first and third Tuesday, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meets at 200 College St., Room 326, in downtown Asheville beginning at 5 p.m. See the full recording and agenda of the May 21 meeting.

Laura Hackett contributed to this report.

Felicia Sonmez is a reporter covering growth and development for Blue Ridge Public Radio.
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