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Wyatt presents $167 million no-new-taxes budget

Henderson County Manager Steve Wyatt presented a $166.7 million budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year on Monday, continuing to invest in the priorities of education and public safety.

In his last draft budget before his retirement later this year, Wyatt kept the tax rate the same, at 56.1 cents per $100 valuation, and credited tax base growth for keeping the county fiscally strong.

"You can argue about any dollar that is in this budget," he said. "If you argue that you don't get a good value for your tax dollars in Henderson County the data and statistics says otherwise. The county has thrived and has been able to achieve investments within the growth in the property tax base."

Counting operating costs and debt service, education consumes the largest amount, at $59 million, or about 35 percent of the total. Public safety — the sheriff's office, emergency services and rescue squad — was budgeted at $39 million, comprising 23 percent of the total. Combined education and safety account for 58.2 percent of the total.

Total debt service, at $20.4 million is the highest ever. The debt service pays off the borrowing for major current projects such as the Hendersonville High School new construction/renovation and Blue Ridge Community College construction and renovation and completed projects such as the emergency services headquarters, Edneyville Elementary Schoool and others.

"We don't borrow money for operating costs," Wyatt said. "We only borrow money for capital projects. We don't borrow money for ambulances, we pay cash. We pay cash for patrol cars."

While Wyatt recommended balancing the budget by appropriating $15.8 million in fund balance, he told commissioners that it's possible funding from the American Recovery Plan Act, which will send $22 million to Henderson County over the next two years, could cover some expenses and reduce the amount of rainy day fund needed.