Commissioners continued to bring the upcoming budget into focus with their second work session that looked primarily at various expenditures. The March 28 meeting is part of a months-long effort of crafting a spending plan for Fiscal Year 2024 (July 1, 2023-June 30, 2024) and looked specifically at grants, personnel, operating drivers, and capital funding.
For FY24, Buncombe County will have eight grants worth $2,639,000 in funding set to expire. The lapse would affect 12 County-hired positions and 18 contracted jobs. To help sustain the community work those grant funds contribute to, the County is looking to continue funding for programs such as:
- $468,000 for the Family Justice Center to help ensure integrated, trauma-informed service for survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and elder and child abuse.
- $310,000 for jail and prison community-based services such as peer support, case management, and linkage to care for those with chronic physical health conditions, mental health conditions, and substance use disorders.
- $207,000 for the Mobile Medication Assisted Treatment Team (MAT) to continue to have a Community Paramedic Post-Overdose Response Team and medication for opioid use disorder teams with peer-support workers and wraparound care.
In all, Commissioners will consider using upward of $2,639,000 to potentially sustain a total of 30 positions that otherwise could be eliminated due to lapsed grant funding. Staff will also research other sources of grant funding to help offset costs. You can read more here.
Budget staff presented Commissioners with personnel requests and the anticipated cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). There are a total 68 positions being requested across 20 departments. Of those positions, 54 would come from new County funding totaling $4.8 million with the rest being funded by $1.1 million in grant money.
Many of these positions are tied to the Commissioners’ strategic priorities involving homeless care, public safety expansion, and infrastructure needs. Some of those requests include:
- 18 part-time paramedics
- A 911 and Emergency Services Public Information Officer
- Six additional full-time staff for Public Libraries
- Five additional staff for Social Services
- One Assistant County Manager
In regard to COLA, the two-year average annual change in the CPI-W, taken from December data, comes in at 7.28%, an increase of $9.9 million. You can read more and see a breakdown of requested positions here. If approved, the COLA would be applied July 1 to all eligible employees (review the personnel ordinance for eligibility).
Staff presented Commissioners with various operating increases from recommended vehicle purchases to new equipment needs such as body cameras for the Sheriff’s Office. This portion of the presentation also covers expected expenditures for Asheville City and Buncombe County schools as well as A-B Tech. Operating expenses also help cover some of the Commissioners’ strategic priorities that fund community initiatives such as land conservation efforts, the Homeowner Grant Program, early childhood education, reparations, increasing affordable housing, and more.
Some key operating drivers include:
- $4,523,000 additional dollars for public safety
- $131,000 to address homelessness
- $325,000 for infrastructure
- $1,967,000 for other requests from General Services, Human Resources, and others
- $554,000 for Ad Hoc Reappraisal recommendations for technology, community outreach, and other initiatives
- $2,443,035 for vehicle purchases and upgrades
Regarding education, the following is a breakdown of the placeholder totaling $115.3 million:
- $8.1 million for A-B Tech
- $16.8 million for Asheville City Schools
- $81.9 million for Buncombe County Schools
Strategic priorities for the Commissioners could total $14 million for projects such as:
- $2.3 million for affordable housing (not including bond projects or Affordable Housing positions)
- $750,000 for conservation easements
- $3.9 million for early childhood education
- $465,000 for homeowner assistance grants, which helped 725 people in its inaugural year
- $510,000 for reparations
- $1.6 million for strategic partnership grants
You can read more about the requested operating costs here.
IT and Capital Funding
Commissioners are considering several technology upgrades and capital improvement projects. The IT projects would cost $537,750 with associated ongoing costs of $367,625 per year afterwards. The capital funding projects would total $61.3 million with two of those (totaling $2.5 million) being pay-as-you-go projects. Some of those upgrades and improvements include:
- $90,000 for EMS real-time tracking
- $116,000 for risk management software
- $27.9 million for renovations at 35 Woodfin St.
- $15.1 million for repairs at the County Courthouse
You can read more about IT and capital funding, estimated debt service, and capital outlay items here.
As presented, the County’s first pass FY24 budget would be $446.7 million, up $48.9 million from FY23. The majority of funding goes to education, human services, and public safety, and you can see a detailed breakdown of the first pass budget below. Commission Chair Brownie Newman said he’s looking forward to seeing what staff brings back for the second-pass projections. “The first-pass budget is just to get everything on the table, the second pass will be a lower number… and then we start getting into what to do with requests,” noted Newman. “There’s lots of compelling things here and priorities that need to be set. Some will have to happen over time… we can’t do everything this year.”
To view a recap of the budget work session, visit facebook.com/buncombegov. Commissioners are slated to hold their next budget work session on April 25.
Previous budget meetings: