• The board unanimously passed amendments to several ordinances that will allow it to change fees on a number of Planning Department services, including erosion control permits and rezoning requests. The language of the amendments now calls for the Commissioners to evaluate the fees on a yearly basis as part of the budget process. They decided to present specific fee raises to the public at their June 21 meeting.
• The board held a public hearing on the county's $303 million budget proposed for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Instead of tax increases, the proposal relies on cuts and $7.9 million in reserve funds. County departments shaved projected expenditures by $7.9 million, primarily by eliminating 93 staff positions. However, the proposal calls for a 1.7 percent increase in overall spending, mostly due to rising social-services and health insurance costs, as well as the expense of building two new intermediate schools.
• Commissioners heard budget presentations by representatives of the Buncombe County and Asheville City School systems, as well as A-B Tech. Officials from all three of the school systems reported that they're facing tough financial times due to proposed cuts in state funding.
• Commissioners voted unanimously to accept a new 700 MHZ simulcast radio system that Cassidian Communications offered to donate to the county. County officials said the new system will provide a significant radio communication upgrade to first responders. Cassidian Communications, an international company which is primarily established outside of the U.S., offered the approximately $6 million system to the county free of charge to try to help it establish itself in this country, said county officials.
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