A-B Tech administrators, teachers and students joined with community leaders Sept. 12 to launch “Jobs for the Future,” a campaign on behalf of a 0.25 percent sales-tax increase to fund capital improvements at the school.
If Buncombe County voters approve a Nov. 8 referendum on the tax, it would generate an estimated $6 million to $7 million annually through 2029, when it would be scheduled to expire.
Supporters at the event, held in the school’s Rhododendron Building, said the measure was desperately needed to fund new infrastructure and renovations, including new classrooms, offices and parking areas. They sought to frame the issue in terms of economic development, arguing the school serves as a crucial training ground and jobs incubator.
“It’s not a tax; it’s an investment,” asserted the school’s president, Hank Dunn, noting that enrollment at the school is expected to increase by over 10,000 students over the next nine years. Currently, it serves roughly 26,000. The majority of them are supportive of the initiative, said Dunn, as he and other officials unveiled grassroots marketing materials such as yard signs, fliers and armbands.
In his remarks, Dunn urged the hundred or so attendees to help get out the vote, and said he thinks the measure has a good chance of passing despite likely resistance to any new taxes. Here’s a clip of him speaking:
Kit Cramer, president of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce also spoke in favor of passing the referendum, saying that the organization only endorsed the measure after a lengthy vetting process. She also argued that it would help create jobs and business opportunities; here’s a clip:
Officials said the measure had bipartisan support, noting that the campaign was co-chaired by Buncombe County Democratic Sheriff, Van Duncan and Lou Bissette, a Republican former mayor of Asheville in the mid ‘80s.
Pictured here: Lou Bissette addressed the crowd in a prerecorded video message.
However, not all partisans agree with those leaders on the issue. The Buncombe County Republican Party is organizing opposition to the tax, with a Sept. 15 meeting to discuss it planned for 6 p.m. at Ryan’s Steak House on Patton Avenue. The featured speaker will be former BCGOP chair Robert Malt, who will “outline the reasons to reject [the sales tax] as well as deceptions on the issue,” according to a press release.
Here’s a slideshow of photos provided by A-B Tech that show some of the areas school officials say the tax funds will help them improve:
All other photos by Jerry Nelson