Buncombe's new fiscal year starts July 1: Which departments get the most money in FY 2023?

·6 min read

ASHEVILLE - Buncombe County's 2023 fiscal year budget begins July 1 with a few big changes, no property tax increases and a focused interest in growing its education and general government spending.

Buncombe's total 2023 operational budget as adopted is more than $573.8 million, including a general fund budget of $398 million, a 2.2% increase from the 2022 amended budget.

After roughly seven months of deliberation between elected leaders and staff, County Manager Avril Pinder first outlined the proposed budget May 19, giving Board of Commissioners 30 days to make any changes.

Only a few tweaks were made by June 21, when commissioners formally voted to approve the budget.

"I know it was a lot of work and an ongoing process throughout the year,” Commission Chair Brownie Newman said then, thanking staff for its efforts in creating the budget. “We’ve had multiple works sessions, financial forecasts … and looked at how to stretch taxpayer dollars to address priorities … and maintain current property tax rate. It’s always a lot of hard decisions, and I appreciate staff presenting options.”

2022 Buncombe County 2023 budget highlights:

One of the "hard decisions" came with the pressure around increasing education spending.

Asheville City Schools, Buncombe County Schools and Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College presented to commissioners May 10, asking for unprecedented spending boosts. The biggest requests came from the city and county schools, whose directors said they were bleeding employees and in need of ways to increase pay.

"I'm going into my 14th year as superintendent," BCS Superintendent Tony Baldwin said then. "This is the biggest ask I've come up here for. I'll also tell you, in my career, I've never seen a time when it's needed more."

A percentage breakdown in Buncombe County 2023 adopted budget showing a broad view of how the government plans to spend taxpayer money in the coming 12 months.
A percentage breakdown in Buncombe County 2023 adopted budget showing a broad view of how the government plans to spend taxpayer money in the coming 12 months.

Buncombe responded by boosting school spending by more than $10 million more than the 2022 amended budget.

It wasn't everything schools asked for, but the move scored some approval from school employees when the budget passed June 21. That was after numerous non-certified staff, teachers and even school board members address Board of Commissioners in public comment sessions, voicing frustrations and worries about the school's future.

Buncombe County Schools employees were at the center of the county's $398.2 million general fund budget discussion.
Buncombe County Schools employees were at the center of the county's $398.2 million general fund budget discussion.

"I just want to say thank you from the staff at Buncombe County Schools for listening to our stories, listening to our pleas," said Melanie Allen, a technology technician. "Remember us. Remember our faces. Remember our stories."

School employees weren't the only ones thanking Buncombe commissioners for spending boosts that affected pay. Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller came to commission during the final weeks of the budget planning process, asking for a way to boost pay for detention center employees. Turnover, he said, had hit the detention center hard at 125% among those who had been hired beginning Jan. 1, 2021.

He got a $3 per hour raise for those employees and more in the 2023 budget.

More: After 125% turnover in 2021, Buncombe approves hourly wage raise for jail staff

“Thank you to our county commissioners for continuing to invest in our shared vision for 21st century policing," Miller said in an email following the budget approval. "This budget allows our Sheriff’s Office to continue the career ladder pay system for a second year, which provides pay increases to our deputies and detention officers if they complete additional training requirements and education goals.”

Buncombe County adopted FY 2023 budget in brief by Andrew Jones on Scribd

The 2023 budget budget also funded three new positions for the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office: one deputy position at the Buncombe County Family Justice Center, one additional detective position and one additional forensic tech position.

Who is getting what in 2023?

But public safety was not the area with the most spending this year.

According to the county's budget explorer and budget-in-brief document, these are some of the departments and groups that scored the highest general fund spending for the 2023 fiscal year:

Education: $109.2 million overall in fiscal year 2023 spending — it was $98.8 million in the amended 2022 budget. 

Who is getting the most money in this area?

  • Buncombe County Schools: $81.8 million

  • Asheville City Schools: $15.2 million

Human services: $91.6 million overall in fiscal year 2023 spending —  it was $94.3 million in the amended 2022 budget.

Who is getting the most money in this area?

  • Social Services: $56.3 million

  • Public Health: $23.7 million

Public safety: $82.5 million overall in fiscal year 2023 spending —  it was $74.5 million in the amended 2022 budget.

Who is getting the most money in this area?

  • Buncombe County Sheriff's Office: $24.6 million

  • Buncombe County Detention Center: $21.1 million

General government: $67.8 million overall in fiscal year 2023 spending — it was $57 million in the amended 2022 budget.

Who is getting the most money in this area?

  • Information Technology: $17.9 million

  • General Services: $10.5 million

Debt: $19 million overall in fiscal year 2023 spending — it was $20 million in the amended 2022 budget.

Who is getting the most money in this area?

  • All Buncombe's debt service for the 2023 budget is concentrated solely on principle and interest payments.

Other financing sources and uses: $10.3 million overall in fiscal year 2023 spending — it was $23 million in the amended 2022 budget.

Who is getting the most money in this area?

  • Interfund transfer to the Special Programs Fund: $6.7 million

  • Interfund transfer to the Transportation Fund: $1.7 million

Cultural and recreational: $9.8 million overall in fiscal year 2023 spending — it was $8.7 million in the amended 2022 budget.

Who is getting the most money in this area?

  • Buncombe County Public Libraries: $7.5 million

  • Recreation Services: $2.4 million

Economic and physical development: $8.8 million overall in fiscal year 2023 spending — it was $11.6 million in the amended 2022 budget.

Who is getting the most money in this area?

  • Planning: $3.1 million

  • Permits and Inspections: $2.8 million

Additionally, the county's special revenue funds for the 2023 budget — money that relies on specific revenue sources that are legally restricted to specified purposes, according to budget documents — total $120.8 million and are split into 11 categories.

  • Special Taxing Districts Fund: $64,064,144

  • Occupancy Tax Fund: $46,000,000

  • Transportation Fund: $4,817,803

  • School Fines & Forfeitures Fund: $2,000,000

  • 911 Fund: $1,288,426

  • Project Development Financing Woodfin Downtown Fund: $813,450

  • Representative Payee Fund: $600,000

  • Tax Reapprisal Reserve Fund: $531,913

  • Register of Deeds Trust Fund: $400,000

  • Forfeiture Fund: $230,000

  • Register of Deeds Automation Fund: $148,646

Related : Asheville City Council approves $216.9M budget; protester calls to defund APD disrupt vote

Andrew Jones is Buncombe County government and health care reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at @arjonesreports on Facebook and Twitter, 828-226-6203 or arjones@citizentimes.com. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Buncombe 2023 budget focuses big on education, public health, safety