Jun 14, 2023

About our 2023 budget…

While the City of Asheville’s 2023-2024 fiscal budget vote was covered in the Asheville Citizen Times, my full statement and position are available here:

Budgets are moral documents that fund our public services and represent our community values through allocation of our public tax dollars. This is my 8th budget cycle, 5 years from the audience, where I often didn’t hear reasons behind budget votes. Tonight, it is both a privilege and responsibility to make a statement on my budget position:

Starting with gratitude: thanks to neighbors who engaged through the process, including surveys, public hearings, and the additional comment period. Thanks to our Urban Forestry Commission and advocates for recommending partnership to fund and implement an Urban Forestry Master Plan to repair our tree canopy. Thanks to those pushing us to send the right responder with the right tools and training as we partner and work to expand emergency and proactive responses during public safety crises. Thanks for living wage advocates.

This budget includes:

  • Transit Study funding to explore collaboration between the City and County for coordination and expansion;
  • an Urban Forestry Master Plan;
  • Reparations funding that I understand reflects the Community Reparations Committee recommendation with inclusion of compounding interest thanks to retreat input and recommendation by Councilwoman Moseley;
  • and the budget also includes shift and training incentives for public works and public safety staff.

This budget does not include:

  • The full $20.10 living wage compliance based on the cost of housing to recruit and retain staff for the quality, equitable services our community deserves;
  • and there’s more funding needed  for our stated climate crisis and for Strategic Partnership Funds for youth programming.

There is serious work ahead to meet obligations and address gaps in our public safety response. I am thankful for the conversation about our strategic priorities in the work session before this meeting that is archived on the city’s website. As our community recovers from overlapping crises, my number one objective is supporting partnership to improve public safety and wellbeing. This looks like addressing root causes of violence by expanding our public safety response so behavioral health specialists are deployed to behavioral health crises, partnering for violence interruption programming, moving our community responder pilot to a fully-realized program as well as addressing root causes of crime by investing in community safety. I think a great first step forward doesn’t require imagining, it requires acting on bolstering partnership with the County’s Community Paramedicine Program to address deep needs addressing substance use poisoning, and mental and behavioral health since health and human services are roles and responsibilities of the County. If we  limit investment in a strong, reliable public safety system moving forward by focusing solely on attempting to go back to a business as usual model, then we will miss the opportunity to shift to data-driven options that are available when the community needs us to pivot to meet this moment.

How we fund the budget matters. A significant amount of fund balance is being used as well as some ARPA/COVID-relief funds, which means identifying funding for future budgets will be a challenge.

Lastly, we’re having hard conversations in City Hall because our community is having hard conversations. I’m going to support the seeds that are in this budget including transit, urban forestry to address climate crisis and neighborhood resiliency, a growing reparations fund, and the community responder pilot program.  I’m committed to the work to ensure quality, equitable service outcomes with this Council of caring and capable colleagues, and I’m encouraged in this work because I know our neighbors care and demand better.