Asheville budget proposal ignites fight among council members

Asheville's new City Manager rolled out her first budget proposal this week. Debra Campbell's spending plan holds the line on the city property tax rate, but sounds the alarm over a structural deficit that cannot be ignored for much longer.

Here's a quick look at the numbers:

And even though the sale of Mission Hospital to a for-profit corporation means a property tax windfall for the City, the numbers won't balance for long:

Manager Campbell proposes a 2.5% pay raise for employees, while launching a compensation study to guide future decisions.

Councilman Keith Young called for raising the minimum wage for City workers to $15 an hour by diverting "a portion" of the money earmarked for across-the-board raises.

 

Councilman Vijay Kapoor said Young's proposal is contrary to his position last year - when he proposed a pay freeze.

Mayor Esther Manheimer said Council shouldn't be micro-managing Campbell in her first budget process. Young replied, "I don't think that's what we're doing."

"Yeah, we are. We ARE doing that," Manheimer replied.

"I think that's what YOU think we're doing," Young shot back.

"I think you are grandstanding," Manheimer replied, pointing a finger at Young. "And that is what you are telling her to do. And I'm sick of it."

"Well, that's your prerogative," Young said.

I get the sense that this testy exchange has roots beyond the budget proposal, and that this is just the first glimpse we're seeing of it. It's obvious that Young is the leader of a three-vote bloc that includes Sheneika Smith and Brian Haynes. Consistently pulling Julie Mayfield's fourth vote makes Young the de facto leader of the City Council.

Later, he effusively praised Mayfield for her comments on denying the Flat Iron Building project. I thought it was was oddly exaggerated as I watched it. But now it's clear - given how this power struggle is shaping up.

Pete Kaliner

Pete Kaliner

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