Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A


Henderson County residents will see higher taxes when they get their property tax bill this fall.

The Board of Commissioners on Monday night on a 3-2 vote approved a 5-cent property tax increase to fund what commissioners described as the cost of growth, increased demand for services and new debt service for major buildings like the health sciences center at Pardee Hospital, emergency services headquarters, Career Academy and Hendersonville High School.
The vote to raise the taxes from the current rate of 51.36 cents to 56.5 cents per $100 valuation came after the board completed five hours of debate and discussion. The tax increase would cost the owner of a $300,000 a year an additional $150 a year. The tax increase and the new $130,287,224 county budget are not subject to a public hearing; commissioners held a public hearing on the proposed budget on May 18 before the tax increase was known.
Among the highlights and cost drivers of the budget:
• School increase including Chromebooks: $1.4 million.
• New cooperative extension position to promote agriculture: $60,577.
• Revenue loss and refund total for scrapping fire inspection fee: $490,000.
• New debt service for buying land to sell back to G.F. Linamar: $1.2 million.
• New EMS crew: $651,936.
• Advanced training pay for sheriff’s office: $262,578.
• Advanced training pay for EMS: $222,108.
• Across the board pay increase (3%): $1 million.

On a motion by Commissioner Bill Lapsley, the board voted unanimously to spend money currently available from sale of the Bent Creek property on numerous projects. Those included:
• $967,000 for a new jail roof.
• $150,000 each for equipment and improvements at Dana and Tuxedo community parks.
• $230,000 for resurfacing of Jackson Park tennis courts.
• And $40,000 for fencing and scoreboards at fields 8 and 9 at Jackson Park.
• An unspecified amount for the sheriff's office to plan and design a law enforcement training center.

Since its May 2 meeting, the Board of Commissioners added $4.2 million to the budget recommended by the county manager.
Among the decisions was to authorize planning for a law enforcement training center. Commissioners have abandoned the idea of an outdoor training facility, saying there was too much opposition no matter where they tried to place one. The board set aside $1.2 million a year to cover the cost based on staff estimates of the borrowing cost. “I’ve heard costs of $15 million,” Wyatt told the board. The money would come from $3.4 million the county received from sale of the Bent Creek property to Buncombe County.
Building the facility would require borrowing and budgeting of debt service every year for the term of the loan. The facility could be built at Blue Ridge Community College, which already offers basic law enforcement training.
The new facility that McDonald envisions “would take the basic law enforcement training program and make it the premier training program in a community college setting in North Carolina,” Wyatt said.

The board also appropriated $652,000 to cover the cost of a new ambulance crew, vehicle and equipment in the Fletcher area. New operating cost would be $388,576; the equipment expense of $208,360 would come out of the $3.4 million the county received from the Bent Creek money.
“I would like to know where this crew is going to go because I think that affects the cost,” Hawkins said. “I don’t have any problem of adding them on. It’s just a matter of when to add them on and where.” Wyatt responded: “We have places we can plug these folks in but for optimal effect the northern part of the county’s had a lot of growth.” Fletcher officials are receptive to partnering on the ambulance station, he said. “What I’ve thrown out to them is if you would locate a station that would be helpful because we don’t have a place for a station up there,” he said. Emergency Management director Rocky Hyder said the county could locate the crew immediately at the Fletcher Fire Department and find a permanent home later.

The new tax rate of 56½ cents per $100 valuation would produce an estimated $71.57 million in fiscal year ’16-17.
“That represents a 10 percent increase, which would generate $6.4 million,” Lapsley said. “I will vote no on this motion.”
“This has been one of the hardest budget processes in 16 years,” Commissioner Charlie Messer said. “We concentrated on public safety. This is a balanced budget and this is what the state says we have to do.”
Commissioner Michael Edney said: “It’s a substantial increase but the taxpayers demand services. If they don’t want this level of service they’ll let us know that.”