Xpress received a number of letters this week pertaining to the Nov. 8 A-B Tech quarter-cent sales-tax referendum. Because the next issue of Xpress publishes Nov. 10, we’re presenting the letters in this special online edition.
Please feel free to post your thoughts, endorsements, civil expressions of opposition or responses to the following letters in the comments field. Letters posted in the comments field will not be edited by Xpress, and are subject to our commenting policy (copied at the end of this entry).
Your opportunity to vote local
I’ve been a community organizer in Asheville for a few years now. I never thought I’d be doing this kind of work, but I can’t imagine doing anything else. The best feeling in the world is when you see change take place before your own eyes. One of the things I hear often is, “I wish politics was more local.” I can understand. Politics can be a messy place especially on a national level. It’d be nice to cast a vote for something local and see the positive impact of your vote.
On Nov. 8, 2011, we have an opportunity to vote for A-B Tech. Your vote will fund educational and job-training facilities at A-B Tech. It’s the next great investment in our community college. Due to state law, the ballot won’t say A-B Tech, but a vote for the “County Sales and Use Tax” is a vote for A-B Tech.
I look forward to walking through A-B Tech with its new buildings and improvements and say: “I voted for this. I voted for education. I voted for A-B Tech.
Join me in being a voter for education, jobs and A-B Tech on Nov. 8.
Campaign for A-B Tech
The quarter-cent sales tax — not now
I know A-B Tech has facilities needs, but not to the tune of $130 million. Let me put it in perspective. If the college uses $10 million to address deferred maintenance on current facilities, which is a gracious plenty, then that leaves $120 million for new buildings. Now, at an estimated construction cost of $240 per square foot, they will be able to build another 500,000 square feet of new buildings. The entire Victoria Road Campus is about 600,000 square feet. So this sales-tax increase generates enough money to almost double the size of the main campus. Keep in mind that it is the county’s responsibility to pay for the operation and upkeep of A-B Tech’s facilities. If the county can’t pay for this now without this new tax then how do they plan to pay for the ongoing maintenance and operation of the new buildings to be built with this tax money?
Before A-B Tech can begin construction on a new building, they will have to specify to the State Board what it will cost to operate the building throughout its life cycle, and the county will have to commit in writing to provide this operational funding. So, the college will soon have to come back to the county for an increase in funding over and above the money being raised by this tax. I think it is only fair to make it clear to the community how this $130 million, and all that goes with it, will affect the county’s budget priorities in the future. As a citizen, I am concerned that this sales tax generates excess money for A-B Tech while there are other unmet needs in our community. And, because it over-funds A-B Tech construction, it will result either in less funding for competing priorities in our community or more tax increases that have not yet been disclosed.
Framed in the right way, I support providing funds to A-B Tech to meet its realistic space needs. But, I have to call it as I see it. This sales-tax increase comes at a bad economic time and targets more money to A-B Tech than the college really needs. In this economy people are struggling just to make ends meet. In my opinion, it is disingenuous to play on their emotional support of A-B Tech in order to push through a funding overreach like this. This sales-tax increase is not in the best interest of the community as a whole. In better economic times, and with greater transparency on the facilities needs of A-B Tech and the economic impact to the county, maybe.
A-B Tech needs citizens’ help
For more than five decades, A-B Tech has provided training and re-training opportunities to Buncombe County residents. It has done so with integrity, financial honesty and accountability. Now A-B Tech needs your help.
In 2007, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the One-Quarter Cent County Sales and Use Tax Act for every county in the state. The purpose was to fund much-needed projects including schools, roads and infrastructure. Included in the Act was the mandate that only generic language could be used on the ballot. That’s why A-B Tech’s name could not be used.
Upon passage of the referendum, Buncombe County will borrow the money to begin construction at A-B Tech. The debt will be issued through Certificates of Participation. Like bonds, the Certificates will be sold to investors. The Certificates will be tied to the 2029 expiration date. That means the money will be legally obligated to A-B Tech facilities until 2029 when the tax expires.
The funds go to A-B Tech as it grows to 38,000 students in the next 10 years. I have voted for the referendum and I encourage you to support it as well.
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