Asheville City Budget
Tuesday, May 25th, the Asheville City Manager’s budget was introduced and June 8th, the public will get a chance to weigh in on the budget during the public hearing. The final vote on the City of Asheville’s budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1st, will take place on June 22nd.
The proposed budget includes several key things Just Economics has been advocating for:
- Living Wages for City Employees including Firefighters–the implementation of the wage and compensation study will keep up with the current living wage rate and bring the City into compliance with their living wage policy when it comes to firefighters.
- Paid Family Leave- The proposed budget includes a Paid Family Leave policy that mirrors the one we advocated for and was passed by the Buncombe County Commissioners in November.
- Transit Improvements- Our Better Buses Together Campaign has long been advocating for extended evening service hours and increased frequency to South Asheville. The proposed budget includes both of these requests.
For more on the budget, check out our budget analysis here
Contact Asheville City Council and tell them to approve investments in living wages, paid family leave, and better transit.
You can make public comment at the June 8th public hearing on the City Budget at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center Asheville (Civic Center).
Send an email to the council members–there is a sample letter below for you to use.
To email the council, the email address is AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov
Dear Asheville City Council:
I appreciate your work around the budget. Please approve a budget that includes the proposed investments in Living Wages for city employees including fire fighters, a comprehensive paid family leave policy, and the much needed improvements for transit.
INSERT YOUR NAME HERE
Buncombe County Transit
As our community recovers from COVID 19, building a more resilient and accessible public transit system in Buncombe County is more important than ever. Check out our open letter to the County here.
Here’s what we’re asking the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners:
- Create a Transit Master Plan to improve transit access in Buncombe County. While Asheville has its own Transit Master Plan, this plan largely focuses on transit within the city limits. This plan will lay out a roadmap for transit expansion in the County, prioritize transit connections between City and County routes, help increase federal funding for transit and lay out an action plan for the County to transition its fleet to 100% electric vehicles by 2030.
- Restore the County’s subsidy for Mountain Mobility services. In the past, the County provided Mountain Mobility service to the City at a reduced rate and subsidized the costs. But over the past couple of years, the County has reduced and then discontinued this subsidy, creating another strain on Asheville’s already underfunded transit system. We call on the County to restore this important health and human service for residents who need it.
Take Action: For an easy, fill in the blanks way to email the County Commissioners about this issue (and as an added bonus, email the Asheville City Council to fund improvements), click here.
NC Minimum Wage
The NC Raising Wages coalition has worked with NC legislators to introduce a bill that would raise the state minimum wage to $15/hr over two years, remove discriminatory exemptions from the existing minimum wage law, and phase out the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers.
Here are a couple of facts about the minimum wage:
- NC’s minimum wage has not been raised since 2009—over a decade ago. 29 other states have a minimum wage above $7.25. North Carolina can raise wages too!
- An estimated 1.6 million workers in NC would benefit from raising the minimum wage to $15/hr.
- The majority of North Carolinians support raising the minimum wage.
- More than 93% of working people in the state of NC who would benefit from the raise are older than 20 and rely on their minimum wage job as their families’ primary income.
- 1/4 of all married parents and 1/2 of all single parents in the state would benefit from raising the minimum wage, meaning 765,000 children would have parents who see a raise.
Let our NC Legislative leadership know that this is an issue critical to North Carolinians and it needs a hearing and full support.
Take action here: https://ncjustice.salsalabs.org/minwage
You can also let your NC State Senate and House representatives know that you support this bill. Find your representative and their contact information here: Representation – North Carolina General Assembly (ncleg.gov)
The Pro Act
The PRO Act is a federal policy aimed at strengthening workers’ rights and removing barriers to join together in a union.
The Bill would do the following:
- Create enforceable and important penalties for companies the violate workers’ rights including civil penalties on employers for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.
- Expand workers collective bargaining rights and strike rights, closing loopholes like misclassification, and giving workers the power to override “right to work” laws by agreeing on a fair share clause.
- Strengthen access to fair elections and first contracts– prohibiting employers from holding mandatory anti-union meetings and putting mechanisms like federal arbitrators in place to secure a first contract within a year.
The PRO Act passed the House in early March and the next front is the US Senate. You can learn more about the PRO Act here: Toolkit (google.com)
You can support the PRO Act by sharing information in your community and social media, writing a letter to the editor, and/or contacting your US Senators.
Here’s the link to make a call to your US Senators: https://actionnetwork.org/forms/pro-act/
And here’s the link to send a letter to your US Senators: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/pro-act/
Funding for Transit
What: Tell City Council to approve funding for extended hours to at least 10pm for all routes and increase frequency to South Asheville on the S3 and S6.
Why: This is a critical time to reach out to council as they are doing work around the budget for fiscal year 2022. The city is behind on getting riders the services they need. While COVID has created funding challenges and setbacks over the last year, we can’t continue to get further behind on the implementation of the Transit Master Plan and put the urgent needs of bus riders on the back burner again.
Year one of the Transit Master Plan (fiscal year 2020) called for extended evening bus service hours, something our campaign of bus riders and allies has been asking for since 2014. While we are in the midst of the pandemic now, we know that more worker supports coming out of the pandemic will be needed to aid in the recovery. Getting extended hours is an important need for necessity riders.
Additionally, year two of the Transit Master Plan (fiscal year 2021) outlined the increased frequency on the S3 and S6 to South Asheville. The current scheduling on these two routes, S3 (which leads down to Asheville airport) and the S6 (heading to Biltmore Park), runs every 90 minutes, a full hour and a half between buses. The length of time between buses is intolerable for transit riders.
Use this template and/or add in your own words to email City Council at email@example.com
Dear Asheville City Council,
Please make transit a priority while working on the budget. I am emailing to ask you to fund extended hours on all routes to run until at least 10pm and increase frequency on the S3 and S6. These improvements are of vital necessity to our transit dependent neighbors.
As we come out of this pandemic, these improvements are crucial for those of us who need to get to and from work and to make necessary trips to South Asheville more accessible.
As we move forward and to the other side of this pandemic, the needs of transit-dependent riders are only likely to increase. Please prioritize these community members and support funding these improvements.
(Your Name Here)
Living Wages for Fire Fighters
The City of Asheville raised the wage floor for all of their workers to $15/hour except 77 firefighters last year. When you consider hourly pay, some firefighters are making less than $12/hour.
To learn more, check out this document from 2020: Ten Things You Need to Know About Fire Fighter Pay
To take action, email Asheville City Council and let them know that everyone deserves a living wage and firefighters should be compensated fairly for every hour they work as a first responder. You can email of City Council here: AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov
You can also find individual email address and more about each Councilperson here: https://www.ashevillenc.gov/government/meet-city-council/
Paid Family Leave
A paid family leave policy with the City of Asheville would give City employees additional paid time off (outside of their normal PTO) for the birth/adoption of a child or to care for a seriously sick close relative. Buncombe County unanimously passed this policy for their employees last Fall and the City of Asheville has the opportunity to join them as a large employer in the region with family-friendly workplace policies.
For more on paid family leave, visit: https://ncfamiliescare.com/#facts
Contact Asheville City Council by email and tell them to extend a Paid Family Leave policy for their employees and set a good example as a large employer in the region:
To share a message with all City Council members, email AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov.
Individual Council Member Email Addresses
Mayor Esther Manheimer
Vice Mayor Sheneika Smith
Raise the Wage Act
The Raise the Wage Act is a federal policy that would raise the minimum wage from its current rate of $7.25 to $15/hr by 2025 and phase out the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, teens, and people with disabilities.
You can learn more about this policy from the Economic Policy Institute Fact Sheet here: https://www.epi.org/publication/why-america-needs-a-15-minimum-wage/
You can take action by adding your name here or by contacting your federal representatives in the House and Senate: