Commissioners take up question of A-B Tech funding

Buncombe County seal

Now that A-B Tech’s governing board has spoken, it’s the Buncombe County Board of Commissioner’s turn to weigh in on capital issues at the community college.

On Feb. 7, the A-B Tech Board of Trustees accepted a compromise plan to address $25 million of deferred maintenance on college buildings.

Commissioners will consider the proposal during their meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

In 2011, commissioners passed a resolution to use revenue generated by the Article 46 sales tax (passed by voter referendum that same year) to pay for capital projects at A-B Tech. About six years later, on June 6, 2017, commissioners unanimously voted for a resolution expanding the possible uses for the sales tax.

According to A-B Tech President Dennis King, county funding has been insufficient to maintain the college’s buildings.

Under interim County Manager George Wood’s new proposal for the use of Article 46 sales tax revenue, the county would budget about $3 million annually for A-B Tech maintenance over the next eight years. The amount would increase 5.5 percent per year to account for inflation, growing to about $4.3 million by fiscal year 2027.

Additionally, the county would cap its transfer of Article 46 revenue to the general fund at $5 million, with the stipulation that all of the money be spent on operating expenses at A-B Tech. In FY 19, $6.5 million was transferred to the county’s general fund.

Trustees approved the plan in a 9-4 vote, with the added provision that any funds generated above expenditures be added to the Article 46 fund balance. With the exception of $2 million reserved for emergencies, the money in the fund balance would have to be used for A-B Tech capital needs.

County attorney Michael Frue suggested the boards jointly enter into a memorandum of understanding. Binding the agreement would then require passing a local bill in the N.C. General Assembly.

After the meeting, board Chair Brownie Newman said he shared concerns expressed by trustees who voted against the proposal, agreeing that the proposal created by county staff  “doesn’t go far enough to assure investment in A-B Tech facilities in the next decade.”

Wood brought the college’s capital issues to the attention of commissioners in September, writing in a memo that, as budgeted at that time, the Article 46 fund balance would be drained of $14.8 million by the end of FY 21.

“And we are not even budgeting adequately for [A-B Tech’s] capital maintenance needs,” Wood wrote, pointing out that the county would need to increase its spending on college capital needs to make a dent in a $25 million maintenance backlog. “It should be obvious that you cannot continue to transfer $6.5 million to the general fund annually,” he noted.

In other business

  • Commissioners will consider a resolution to extend the scheduled end of Wood’s contract from Thursday, Feb. 28,  to Monday, March 4, when newly appointed County Manager Avril Pinder will start work. Commissioners appointed Wood interim county manager in June after the sudden retirement of Mandy Stone.
  • Commissioners will vote on whether to appoint Budget Director Jennifer Chilton to deputy finance officer. Commissioners appointed Dustin Clark deputy finance officer in September 2018. County spokesperson Kassi Day said Clark is leaving the county for a job in the private sector. His last day was Feb. 15.
  • Commissioners will hear a third-quarter financial report from Finance Director Don Warn. Read the presentation here.

Commissioners will meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, in the third-floor conference room at 200 College St. in downtown Asheville. Click here to see the meeting agenda and supporting documents.

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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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9 thoughts on “Commissioners take up question of A-B Tech funding

  1. StewBob

    ABTech deserves reasonable support of its facilities and future building projects. However, while the county’s extravagant use of these tax funds is being condemned and ABTech’s mistrust of the county has been pointed to, not so long ago, weren’t there concerns about the extravagant use of the same tax funds through building and facilities projects proposed under ABTech’s former president Hank Dunn and BOT members? Didn’t these eventually lead the county to push through legislation to control ABTech buildings? How many members of the current ABTech president’s administration and BOT were operational under that fiasco? Taxpayers and county commissioners and administrators really should do their homework and visit the new allied health building that ABTech is lauding and maybe compare it to the more modest but tasteful and functional county-ABTech emergency services training center in Woodfin which was built with taxpayer dollars not so long ago. With deeper investigation, one might find that the lauded allied health building is overly expansive and under utilized and remember that both the county and ABTech need oversight when it comes to the use of taxpayer dollars they can feel entitled to.

  2. C Smith

    Apparently the citizens of Buncombe County need overseers for the county commissioners who are supposed to oversee the county manager who supposedly oversees county operations… #3LevelsOfFail

    • Lulz

      No. what they need to do is vote in people who don’t look at residents as piggy banks to be fleeced. And what they really need to do is get rid of Brownie Newman. That guy is the very definition of crook.

  3. Tristan Callahan

    One day Asheville will learn to ask tougher questions.
    Like how much money AB Tech administrators wasted demolishing the wrong building not that long ago.

    Under King and his current staff the place has turned into a black hole for tax payer dollars to be poorly managed.

  4. bsummers

    Have we ever heard anything about that plan to study whether to do a study on delivering water from Canton to Candler? Just curious.

  5. Tater

    What the frig?!? Shouldn’t Commissioners Frye (currently sits on the A-B Tech Board) and, especially, newbie Edwards (is a current full-time employee of A-B Tech responsible for fund-raising who reports directly to A-B Tech President Dennis King) recuse themselves from taking part in this issue due to conflict of interest and impartiality?

  6. Concerned Citizen

    Every single position that makes more than $80,000 a year should be elected by the citizens of Buncombe County….not by commissioners. The commissioners have been a dismal failure in hiring people…hiring outside of the county…hiring a interim manager who wants to gut salary and benefits for the workers who actually do ALL the work…and reward lazy managers and administration who make way too much money. The previous heads of departments who embezzled “retention pay” when they were about to retire and in no danger of leaving…the fact that those same crooks chose their current replacements who get paid a ludicrous salary and don’t meet basic education requirements for their job…allowing a group of people to swindle taxpayer money and have the audacity to pass the buck on to the citizens. Constantly raising property taxes and while you overpay based on their over assessment…they lower values of businesses and wealthy people but nothing to help the working poor. They hide valuation information so it’s impossible to appeal your property but tell you it’s your responsibility to provide information. The county is a joke. Print every person’s name, education, salary that makes over $60,000 a year. You’ll find managers and directors who have no education to back up their pay but requiring a BA for freaking temp jobs!

  7. Darryl

    Oh come on commissioners and just support A-B Tech already! Since he was publically questioned about the number of blacks at the college by Commissioners Frost and Whitesides, A-B Tech President Dennis King and key members of his cabinet have been arranging hiring practices to increase the number of black hires at the college. Apparently even to the point of creating goals or quotas that name the specific percentage they intend to hire annually with the president as the final decision-maker on all hires. Can’t figure out why A-B Tech isn’t touting their efforts. https://mountainx.com/news/come-back-with-answers-commissioners-tell-a-b-tech-president-unanimously-agree-to-continue-spending-moritorium/
    https://www.abtech.edu/board-trustees-meeting-minutes/october-1-2018-board-meeting-minutes

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