A-B Tech President Hank Dunn first requested the vote at the commissioners' annual retreat in December, emphasizing that the school helps train residents for work and that the money would be an “investment in local jobs.” In a subsequent letter to County Manager Wanda Greene, Dunn further explained that the money is needed for building repairs, maintenance and "to expand the capacity of our allied health programs to train employees for one of Western North Carolina's largest employment sectors." According to Dunn, healthcare workers account for 25 percent of the region's service sector. He wrote that "A-B Tech is currently out of space to add new programs in the existing Health Building and our ability to provide workforce training could be substantially strengthened by the construction of a building that would support the growth of our health programs…"
Dunn received a favorable response from several commissioners when he approached them about the issue in December. Vice Chair Bill Stanley predicted that the measure would pass a public vote, explaining that "the most fair tax is a sales tax to me," and noting that the increase "would need a sunset clause." Commissioner Holly Jones disagreed, describing sales tax as regressive "because we know more poor, working people come out of pocket." Still, Jones went on to say that "this is one thing I could see it being used for" because of the population that the school serves. Commissioner Carol Peterson, who serves on the A-B Tech Board of Trustees, also voiced strong support.
"I don't think you can drive anywhere without seeing someone with an A-B Tech sticker on their car, and that means a lot," she said. "I don't think there's another organization in the county that can get this passed other than A-B Tech."
Commissioner K. Ray Bailey is president emeritus of the school. He worked for there for 42 years, serving the last 15 as president.
After commissioners voted to put the tax on the ballot, Dunn promised that the school will wage a major campaign to get out the vote in support of it.
For a more detailed report on the Jan. 18 commissioners' meeting, be sure to pick up a copy of the Jan. 26 edition of Xpress.
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