June is Gun Violence Awareness Month, and Buncombe County Commissioners are marking the occasion with a proclamation in the wake of multiple mass shootings the past few months. The proclamation, approved during their June 21 meeting, reads in part: “Every day, more than 110 Americans are killed by gun violence, alongside more than 200 who are shot and wounded, and on average there are nearly 16,000 gun homicides every year. Americans are 26 times more likely to die by gun homicide than people in other high-income countries. North Carolina experienced 1,699 total firearm deaths in 2020 and communities across the nation, including Buncombe County, are working to end gun violence with evidence-based solutions. Protecting public safety in the communities they serve is a core responsibility of local government and support for the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding residents goes hand-in-hand with promoting gun ownership safety.” Read the entire proclamation here.
Economic Development Coalition update
The Economic Development Coalition (EDC) is a public-private partnership consisting of Buncombe County, the City of Asheville, and the Asheville-Area Chamber of Commerce. The EDC’s goal is to diversity our economy and help create high-wage jobs. Some highlights of their presentation include:
- Industry Nine bike manufacturing investing $6 million and creating 50 new jobs
- East Fork Pottery investing $2.4 million and creating 50 new jobs
- Legally Addictive food manufacturing investing $1.5 million and creating 15 new jobs
Additionally, the EDC continues to work with job seekers and the average employment rate is $18.62 per hour. There are currently 56 job seekers in the placement process and 56% of those seeking employment through the EDC represent our BIPOC community. You can read the EDC’s entire presentation here.
The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (TDA) also presented Commissioners with an update. A TDA survey indicates that 83% of people agree tourism is beneficial for our community with four out of five survey respondents indicating they encourage friends and family to visit the area. TDA data shows the following growth trends:
- 180% vacation rental sales growth from FY19-FY22
- 17% hotel sales growth from FY19-FY22
- 7% B&B sales growth from FY19-FY22
- $8 million increase in vacation rental occupancy tax collections from FY19-FY22
- $3.4 million growth in hotel occupancy tax collections from FY19-FY22
- $60,000 increase in B&B occupancy tax collections from FY 19-FY22
The TDA also states it has invested $1 million in Black-owned creators and media organizations. You can view the entire presentation here.
Pack Square visioning update
As part of the removal of the confederate-era Vance Monument, the County is working with the City of Asheville on redesigning Pack Square. Earlier this year, an RFP was issued to seek qualified candidates that will help with the revisioning process. After reviewing the bids, the McAdams Firm was selected, and the next steps will be to work on engaging the public and gathering feedback. The goal is to present Commissioners with a final vision for Pack Square in March 2023. You can learn more about the Pack Square redesign process here.
Budget Amendment for NC PRO Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Grant Adjustment
HHS will receive just over $510,000 from state’s PRO Emergency Rental Assistance grant through two payments. The funding will help support three caseworkers and two temporary-grant positions through the rest of the grant period, which expires Sept. 30, 2022. The budget adjustment reflects the additional allocations. You can read more here.
Budget Amendment for LOBS 2022 A & B Debt Issuance and Refunding Across Multiple Funds
In order for the County to receive proceeds from two limited obligation bonds (LOB), a budget amendment is necessary. This amendment also allows for payment of the issuance cost and escrow agent.
The following funds will have revenue and expenditures in the amounts of:
- General Fund: $1,155,000
- PDF Woodfin Fund: $10,060,000
- Public School Capital Fund: $32,018,000
- Article 46 Sales Tax Capital Fund: $37,714,000
- Capital Projects Fund: $14,000
- Solid Waste Capital Projects Fund: $24,000
Read more here.
Budget Amendment for Government Accounting Standard Board (GASB) Statement #87 Compliance
The County needs to implement the Government Accounting Standard Board’s Statement 87 for FY22. Ultimately, this means certain leases will now be recorded as debt service instead of operating expenditures. This increase of $500,000 in the debt service budget is to allow the County to account for these lease payments as required. This move is not expected to result in new costs, but the accounting required for these various leases will extend beyond the County’s opportunity to make a budget amendment if necessary. You can see additional information here.
Summer camp funding
Commissioners approved $50,000 of funding to help the PODS Chosen Summer Camp, which will provide education, recreation, and more for about 140 kids. The camp specifically focuses on serving kids from the Southside, Hillcrest, Pisgah View, and Deaverview communities and is part of the Commissioners’ commitment to furthering equity. The funding will come from the County’s COVID recovery funds.