City budgets provide a roadmap to the delivery of local public services. Each year, the City of Asheville evaluates its programs and looks for ways to improve core services and make new investments.
The $121 million General Fund Budget approved by City Council June 13 delivers these investments in improved quality of life for our residents through:
- Expanded transit service, providing for eight additional hours of evening service per day, Monday-Saturday (48 additional weekly hours) and adding Sunday/Holiday service on all routes (76.5 additional weekly hours). These changes are to begin in January 2018. The budget also funds the purchase of new electric buses in FY 2017-18.
- $2 million allocated to the Walton Street Pool rehabilitation.
- Proactive management of our bond projects with three target areas: affordable housing; improving our parks; and transportation improvements such as streets, sidewalks and bike lanes.
- Improved Riverfront assets through the River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project, known as RADTIP, to revitalize the industrial area on the French Broad Riverfront.
- An investment in equity, both external and internal, with a new program focused specifically on this issue to come on board in 2017.
All of these improvements relate back to City Council priorities as outlined in their Vision 2036, with target areas such as a diverse community and transportation and accessibility.
The big picture
The biggest investment the City makes is in the delivery of core services. And every day, a group of dedicated people report to work to deliver those services. Salaries, wages and benefits make up 61% of the budget. These are the people you see every day picking up trash in neighborhoods and managing our parks. Behind the scenes they are people working to ensure stormwater structures are in place to divert rainwater in a City experiencing a high level of development, and staff dedicated to the delivery safe drinking water that exceeds EPA standards.
The City is working to be proactive and responsive to the needs of a changing community, even a changing environment, through additional investments in Stormwater Services. Building relationships and keeping our community safe is paramount when it comes to financial support for fire, rescue and police services.
Getting to ‘revenue neutral’ tax rate
The impact of revaluation has surfaced as a property owner concern this year. State statute requires revaluations a minimum of every eight years. Buncombe County conducts county-wide revaluations every four years.
Buncombe County’s revaluation was significant — 30% value increase city-wide and as much as 45% in some areas, such as Montford and West Asheville.
The City of Asheville’s property tax rate for 2017 was 47.5 cents per $100 of valuation. That translates to $475 on a property worth $100,000. The average home in Asheville is worth about $275,000. If the tax rate had stayed the same in 2018, City property taxes for a $275,000 home would be $1,306.25.
To offset the impact of revaluation, the City began with a “revenue neutral” budget.
What does this mean? The City lowered its tax rate to help offset the revaluation increases, bringing it in at 39.39 cents, an 8.11 cent decrease from the 2017 rate. From there:
- Asheville voters approved three General Obligation (GO) Bond referendums in November, for $74 million investments in transportation, parks and recreation, and affordable housing initiatives. The debt service for the bonds adds 3.5 cents to the revenue neutral rate.
- Bringing the total tax rate to 42.89 cents, a decrease of 4.61 cents from the 2017 rate. Looking at the same $275,000 home, total City of Asheville property tax will be $1,180.
Property tax is the primary revenue source for the City. Property tax collections account for more than 50% of the General Fund budget. Property taxes are based on the value of a property, the land and any “improvements” — i.e. buildings on the parcel.
Finally, an explanation of municipal budgets
Why do local governments operate through annual budgets?
Budgets outline a financial plan, one that details the government’s projected revenues and expenditures for a defined period of time. Local governments typically have operating budgets and capital budgets. An operating budget is a plan of current (annual) spending and the means to pay for it (taxes, fees, etc.). A capital budget contains long-term spending for the acquisition of assets and the means to pay for them, including borrowing.