Here's a list of highlights from the May 15 meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. We'll have a full report in the May 23 issue of Xpress.
• The board considered County Manager Wanda Greene's budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1. It avoids any property-tax increases or major cuts, relying instead on $8.3 million in reserve funds and projected economic growth to cover a roughly 1 percent increase in spending over last year. The board will hold a public hearing on the proposal at its next regularly scheduled meeting on June 5. Click here for an overview of the proposal.
• During a discussion of the budget, commissioner Holly Jones proposed several changes to the county's personnel policy: cutting commissioner salaries by 17 percent; decreasing the amount of time new county employees are required to wait to receive health insurance from 90 days to 30 days; and capping county employee longevity bonuses at a maximum of $3,000 per year. The other commissioners, as well as county staff, offered no response. After the meeting, Jones said she's considering making a formal motion to amend the budget to include the changes at the board's next meeting on June 5.
• Commissioners voted unanimously to pass a non–binding pledge to loan Mountain Housing Opportunities Inc. up to $2 million to fund Eagle Market Place, a proposed development near the corner of Eagle and South Market streets in downtown Asheville. The $12 million development would include the renovation of several neglected historic buildings and the construction of 60-70 affordable rental apartments, as well as retail, commercial and office space. Officials with Mountain Housing Opportunities said the promise from the commissioners would help the project have a better chance of coming to fruition by increasing the chances of securing housing tax credits through a program of the N.C. Housing Finance Agency.
• The board instructed county staff to study a request from Waste Pro to allow it to raise garbage pickup rates by 8 percent. The company is contracted with the county to provide pickup services in unincorporated areas of the county; the change would increase the basic monthly rate it charges from $14.20 to $15.34. Officials from the company told commissioners they're requesting the hike to offset the rising price of fuel, as well as higher labor and landfill costs.
• Commissioners unanimously endorsed a 5–year County Sustainability Plan that sets a variety of goals, from improvements in workforce development and education to land preservation and multimodal transit.
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