Balanced budget, investments in transit and no tax increase highlight Asheville’s 2019-2020 budget

TEST cover of budget document

 

Construction of a new Fire Station 13, and more than $1 million in funding towards the first-year recommendations of the Transit Master Plan are included in the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 Annual Operating Budget adopted by Asheville City Council during their June 11 meeting.

 

By law, Council must pass a balanced budget in advance of the fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30. The total $190.3 million budget maintains the City’s 42.89 cent tax rate. Find a copy of the proposed budget document at this link.

 

Essential service delivery was a guiding principle for the budget presented to Council by City Manager Debra Campbell. Ensuring efficient operations was also a key focus in areas such as on-time bus service and adding Water Resources maintenance positions to help minimize customer impacts during service interruptions.

 

Engaging the community in the budget process

“Public interest in the City’s budget process has grown tremendously over the last several budget cycles,” Debra Campbell noted in the City Manager Budget Message. “In response, City Council requested that staff expand communication and engagement efforts to enhance transparency around the City’s budget.”

 

Between November 2018 through January 2019, staff actively sought budget feedback from budget priorities through an online survey and four community meetings.

 

Following community engagement, City Council worked with staff on refining budget priorities during pre-budget worksessions in March and April.

 

Council took comment during a public hearing on the budget during their May 28 meeting.

 

Budget highlights

By strategically aligning resources in the most cost-efficient manner identified, here are some initiatives included in the 2019-2020 Annual Operating Budget:

  •  An investment of $1.2 million to implement the first phase of the Transit Master Plan. The goals are to address on-time performance and missed trips and route reconfigurations, among other initiatives.
  •  A $8 million allocation to fund construction of Fire Station 13 in the 5 Points area on Broadway.
  •  $150,000 to fund a classification and compensation study, designed to review whether the current pay structure is aligned with business needs and the labor market. This study will specifically review the feasibility of implementing a $15 per hour minimum wage.
  •  Additional funding for outreach services provided to people experiencing homelessness in Asheville.
  •  Funding of four new positions for a sidewalk maintenance crew in Public Works to help provide faster response and flexibility.
  •  Funding for the City’s 6% matching contribution to the firefighter 457 retirement plan. This benefit was increased from 4% to 6% mid-year FY 2018-2019.