Pete's Prep: Monday, May 14, 2018

County budget proposal spends less than last year

Buncombe County Commissioners got a look at the proposed budget - the first one since former County Manager Wanda Greene was busted for embezzlement. She was able to get away with it for years because she hid details from commissioners during the budget process.

And commissioners seemed satisfied to be left in the dark about itemized spending.

Next year's proposal is  $318.7 million.

The general fund budget is $12 million less than last year's, a 3.6 decrease in expenditures. Officials pointed to a change in the state's childcare subsidy policy, resulting in a $8 million drop, and a clamping down by commissioners on the use of economic development funding.

Buncombe's budget for other funds — such as 911, fire districts and others — totals $107.8 million, a roughly $5.4 million rise from last year.

The county's tax rate — 53.9 cents per $100 — would remain. In a report to commissioners, County Manager Mandy Stone said the request from schools prevents a reduction in the tax rate; Commissioner Joe Belcher earlier this year proposed a 1-cent cut.

It includes an increase of $3.4 million schools.

The appropriation is about $600,000 less than what was requested by school officials in presentations earlier this week — a reduction Stone said in a report was necessary to maintain fund balance levels. 

I'd note that in budget debates when the governing body is controlled by Republicans, this would be called a "cut" to education funding - because it does not fully fund the total ask.

The budget also includes a possible fire services tax increase.

A public hearing is set for June 5th.

You can see the presentation here.

Progressives move to take over Buncombe

It's not exactly breaking news that the progressive takeover of the Bumbcombe Democratic Party is complete. This political machine, having secured its power in the Asheville City government via a corrupt status quo election system designed to produce victories in the primaries, is looking to take over the County government.

To do so, they'll need a lot more progressives to move to the county.

And Asheville's anti-growth mindset is helping to do just that.

Up to now, I thought that the regulatory framework used by the City of Asheville to limit a lot of development was designed by people who pushed progressive policies because they thought the policies were the best. The skyrocketing home prices and lack of affordable housing was simply the result of bad policies pushed by politicians who didn't know better.

They didn't mean for this to happen, but they cannot give up their predisposition for control.

That's what I assumed.

But maybe the high prices are actually the goal.

It's a thought I had as I was reading John Boyle's piece over the weekend in the Citizen-Times, where he noted how progressives are now moving into the county.

In short, liberals from Asheville find they can afford houses in the county, and they take their leftward political leanings with them.

He quotes a local realtor who says people are moving directly to Buncombe from California, New York and New Jersey. 

And once they get here, they attempt to implement the very policies they are fleeing.

It's the pattern I saw in Charlotte-Mecklneburg in the 2000s. What was once a balanced local government soon became dominated by only Democrats. The surrounding counties became redder, as Charlotte natives moved out.

But in Asheville, the high price of housing helps keep a permanent underclass of service workers who have to spend more of their paychecks just to keep a roof over their heads. This helps to increase the costs of virtually all goods and services locally. New business starts are also restraining by inadequate housing supply.

And maybe this is the point.

NC rural health care gets an examination

An interesting - and local - piece at the Carolina Journal about rural health care is well worth the time to read.

The medical plight of rural North Carolina has seized the attention of lawmakers in Raleigh, nonetheless. It’s now a constant topic in health-care committee meetings in which rural/urban, have/have not flashpoints surface when discussing reform or government intervention, and it’s the sole focus of the Committee on Access to Healthcare in Rural North Carolina. 

The just-released University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute’s 2018 County Health Rankings place Graham 96th worst of 100 North Carolina counties for clinical care. The ratio of doctors to residents is 4,310:1, more than triple the state ratio. Residents outnumber dentists 4,280:1, approaching triple the state ratio. 

Still, the vast majority of people refuse to leave for areas with better offerings. It’s not bunker mentality for them. It’s just the nature of mountain life, one after another county resident replied when asked why they stay.


And another thing...

WRAL took a look at how the NC Department of Public Instruction calculates the average teacher pay. Coincidentally, this weekend I was discussing the one-day teacher strike with a K-12 education professional who called it "fake news" that the NC average teacher pay is more than $51,000.

Also, the President of the John Locke Foundation, John Hood, writes how freedom is a growth strategy.

Pete Kaliner

Pete Kaliner

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