Supporters of the referendum to raise Buncombe County’s sales-tax by a quarter-cent to fund capital improvements at A-B Tech have a huge fundraising advantage going into the campaign’s final days.
According to the latest financial disclosure reports released Oct. 31 by the Buncombe County Board of Elections, the referendum committee that formed to support the measure – Join Our Buncombe Solutions (JOBS) – has raised a total of $140,475.40. That sum overwhelms the $2,341.20 raised by the Sales Tax Opposition Partnership (STOP), a referendum committee started by former Buncombe GOP chair Robert Malt to defeat the referendum.
The biggest contributor to JOBS was the A-B Tech Foundation, a nonprofit with the mission of supporting the community college “in all of its programs and activities to ensure that quality educational opportunities are available to its students, faculty and staff,” according to its website. So far, it’s donated $75,000 to the effort. And the Student Government Association of A-B Tech chipped in $10,000.
Several local businesses have also made big donations to the committee, including AVL Technologies ($25,000), Silver Line Plastics ($5,000), Home Trust Bank ($2,000) and the Grove Park Inn ($2,000). Contributions from individual residents only accounted for $5,725 of the total.
On the other hand, almost the entire amount raised by STOP has come from individuals making small donations. The only additional donation came from the Buncombe County Republican Party, which chipped in $219. Of the $2,341.20 total, the committee still has $646.03 on hand to spend. The rest has gone toward grassroots advertising such as fliers and yard signs.
Meanwhile, JOBS reports having a total of $64,726.76 on hand to spend going forward. The committee spent $23,997.08 on the services of Burges & Burges Strategist, a Cleveland, Ohio–based political consulting and communications company. An additional $16,112.60 went to Charter Communications and $15,785.73 went to an Asheville printing and mailing service.
JOBS has also promised to cover the cost of staffing polling places around the county that wouldn’t be open Nov. 8 if not for the referendum; those costs are estimated at $80,000.
UPDATE: The Asheville Citizen-Times reported Nov. 2 that A–B Tech said it would return the $10,000 contribution from the Student Government Association, which is funded entirely through student fees. School officials have previously promised that only private donations would be spent on the effort.