A-B Tech trustees accept compromise on sales tax funding

BUILDING NEEDS: Interim County Manager George Wood said a recent architectural assessment revealed $25 million in deferred maintenance at A-B Tech. Photo courtesy of A-B Tech

A recent evaluation revealed almost $25 million in deferred building maintenance needs at A-B Tech. That state of affairs, said college President Dennis King during a meeting of the A-B Tech board of trustees on Feb. 7, is the result of a lack of funding from Buncombe County.

The funding shortfall occurred despite the passage of a 2011 referendum that increased county sales tax by a quarter-cent to pay for capital projects at the college. Instead, much of the money has gone to other county funding needs.

At the Feb. 7 meeting, interim County Manager George Wood proposed an eight-year compromise plan that would:

  • Budget $3.125 million in Article 46 sales tax revenue annually for campus maintenance beginning in fiscal year 2020 and increasing 5.5 percent per year to account for inflation. This funding would cover the cost of clearing the college’s maintenance backlog, Wood said.
  • Limit county transfers of Article 46 revenue to its general fund to no more than $5 million in any fiscal year.
  • Earmark any Article 46 tax revenue transferred to the general fund for offsetting A-B Tech operating costs. Last year, the county transferred $6.5 million in Article 46 sales tax revenue to its general fund to pay for college operations.
  • Commit the county to pay for any new construction agreed to by both the A-B Tech board and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners.
  • Maintain a minimum $2 million Article 46 Sales Tax Fund balance to cover any college maintenance emergencies.

Trustees approved the proposal in a 9-4 vote and added a provision stipulating that any funds generated above expenditures would go to the Article 46 fund balance. That money, with the exception of the $2 million reserved for emergencies, could only be used for A-B Tech capital needs for the term of the agreement.

County Attorney Michael Frue suggested that trustees and commissioners seek support from local state representatives to pass state legislation formalizing the agreement, which also still needs approval by the Board of Commissioners.

If both boards jointly enter into a memorandum of understanding outlining their wishes for the Article 46 revenue, “There is a good chance that the local delegation will back such legislation,” Frue said.

Trustee Matt Kern, who voted against the proposal, said the plan still leaves millions of dollars in county coffers. “It perplexes me that only in government do you take somebody’s money and then offer them a compromise to give part of it back to them,” he said. “That seems to be what’s going on here.”

Kern said money from the quarter-cent sales tax was never intended to pay for college operations.

“When [Wood] guarantees us $5 million for operations from the sales tax money that’s supposed to go for capital, I think that stinks,” Kern said. “And what it stinks of is the county commission is balancing their budget on the backs of A-B Tech.”

In an email after the vote, Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman wrote that he shares concerns expressed by trustees who voted against the proposal.

Voters were told that $129 million in sales tax proceeds would be invested in capital needs at A-B Tech, Newman wrote. While over $80 million has been spent, and Wood’s proposal would lead to an additional $29 million investment, that still falls short of what voters were guaranteed, he added.

“I am hoping the commission may be open to strengthening the plan to guarantee this investment level is achieved within the next eight to 10 years,” he said. “I believe some other commissioners share this concern.”

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About David Floyd
David Floyd was a reporter for the Mountain Xpress. He previously worked as a general-assignment reporter for the Johnson City Press.

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5 thoughts on “A-B Tech trustees accept compromise on sales tax funding

  1. Mike

    It perplexes me that only in government do you take somebody’s money and then offer them a compromise to give part of it back to them,” he said. ”

    No sh*t , Sherlock, Brownie Newman and his merry band of thieves including Wanda Greene steal AB-Techs money and then offer to “settle” by giving a little bit back. If there is not a state law against this their should be.

    • Lulz

      LOL government is a criminal syndicate. Those within it are no better than a mob outfit or gang. Laws are only for those outside of it.

  2. Mike

    I own property in Buncombe County and pay about $3000 per year. But I don’t live in Buncombe County so as far as I can tell I cannot LEGALLY vote (even though I could EASILY vote) under existing law. I remember that when the A-B Tech tax was proposed. I told my BC friends that if it passed, this is exactly what would happen. I also remember from grade school that taxation without representation is a “bad thing”.

    • bsummers

      “Brian”. If that is your real name… If you are stating that you believe you can vote illegally in Buncombe County elections, I suggest you inform law enforcement. If you don’t agree that this is the right course of action, well, that will tell us all something about you…

      • Mike

        My name is Mike. I don’t know who Brian is. But here is how to vote illegally in NC. (1) Historically NC has not required voter id. So if you know that Joe Smith lives at 110 Kimberly Ave and you suspect Joe is a registered voter, you go early to an early voting location and declare yourself to be Joe Smith of 110 Kimberly Ave. Then you vote. If the real Joe shows up later, I don’t know if there is a way to cancel the vote of the fake Joe. But if the real Joe sits it out, the fake Joe’s vote will surely count. If NC EVER gets a voter id law in place it would eliminate that loophole. (2) I also own a second home in Buncombe County where I spend about 4 months per year. (My legal residence is in SC). That fact plus a copy of my phone bill + cable TV bill + Water bill allowed me to go to the DMV and secure an NC Picture ID Card with my NC address on it. With that card I COULD register to vote in Buncombe county….College students can also register using their University ID cards.

        Feel free to pass this info on to law enforcement if you want… but I recommend that you don’t hold your breath waiting for these loopholes to be plugged ;-)

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