Look beyond the surface for decision on A-B Tech referendum

Of course everyone wants better schools, including Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, but the question is what A-B Tech really needs and whether or not the current referendum is the best way to get it. Unfortunately, several issues have not been publicized.

It is assumed and advertised that the sales-tax increase, if approved, is to be spent for A-B Tech, but the Nov. 8 referendum vote for county and city residents does not mention A-B Tech at all! Future commissioners are not bound by decisions of past commissioners (remember zoning?) — even though they passed a resolution in August clarifying that the money would be used “exclusively for the stated capital-improvement needs of A-B Tech.” It goes to the General Fund.

Why not issue bonds, which can be designated specifically for A-B Tech, instead of [raising] taxes, thus protecting A-B Tech and taxpayers’ money? If taxes are diverted to other causes, we will be left with bills for A-B Tech improvements to be financed with non-voter-approved loans, which are at higher rates than other loans.

There is a bill (H.B. 329) in Raleigh to specify that the tax funds be spent on A-B Tech, but Sen. Martin Nesbitt is trying to stop it. Why would he not want a guarantee of where the extra taxes go? Do he and others have different plans for that money?

Omitted from the commissioners’ resolution and the referendum are expenses associated with capital improvements. How will faculty, staff, maintenance, insurance and other expenses be paid? With tuition and student fee increases? Fewer classes? Fewer instructors elsewhere? More taxes?

Recently, new A-B Tech President Hank Dunn requested from the Board of Elections that several polling places be set up at A-B Tech, where there usually are none! Is this ethical?

The County Manager said that funds being used to open all the county (not town and city) polls were raised by private funds with no public money involved. Who are the anonymous donors? How do they plan to benefit from $7 million per year for the next 17 years?

One of the “capital improvements” in the plan is a fitness center. Is this really necessary to train students for jobs? They are looking at adjoining land to buy. What else is in their plan?

If they really need more classroom space, have they considered the many empty buildings throughout the county? Have they defined their problems well and looked out of the box for solutions? Every private entity and most government entities, including schools, have had to re-think everything in this economy. Why not A-B Tech?

While no one wants students at A-B Tech (or anywhere) to be in need of well-kept and well-equipped facilities with good instructors, the current referendum is, at best, poorly thought out and should be postponed until next year. Buncombe County students and voters deserve better.

Seems like a school of fishy issues. Get out and Vote “no” on Nov. 8.

— Janet Burhoe-Jones
Swannanoa

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