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.