UPDATE: Buncombe County Commissioners PASS public vote on AB-Tech tax hike

UPDATE: Buncombe County Commissioners PASS public vote on AB-Tech tax hike-attachment0

At this evening’s Jan. 18 meeting, the Buncombe County County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to put a one-quarter-of-1-cent sales-tax increase on the ballot to help fund $129 million in building improvements at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. The measure is now set to go up for a public vote on Election Day, Nov. 8.

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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2 thoughts on “UPDATE: Buncombe County Commissioners PASS public vote on AB-Tech tax hike

  1. Paul -V-

    I’m predisposed to support this initiative. I do have some questions:

    1) Exactly how much is this supposed to raise?

    2) As I understand it, local funds aren’t supposed to pay for salaries & staff of AB-Tech. Assuming this passes and capital projects are funded, what guarantees are there that the state will step in to pay for new employees and management that will be needed to work these buildings and proposed programs?

    3) Assuming this passes – what guarantees do taxpayers have that tuition isn’t going to go up anyways? What guarantees do teachers have that they aren’t going to get laid off once expected budget cuts come down from Raleigh?

    4) Exactly how many new jobs is this supposed to generate? What hard numbers or studies do supporters of this initiative have to back this up?

    5) It is rumored AB-Tech has committed $80K to a campaign to generate support for a ballot initiative. If this unconfirmed rumor is true, where is this money coming from?

    Like I wrote: I’m predisposed to support community investment in higher education. I hope the County Commission clarifies some of my questions.

    – pvh

  2. J

    I agree in totality with Paul.

    I’ll only add one other…should Carol Peterson have recused herself, since she serves on the AB-Tech board of trustees? It certainly appears to be a conflict of interest at first glance.

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