After siphoning A-B Tech sales tax money, Buncombe offers to take less

Eight years ago local business, education, and elected leaders pitched voters on a new sales tax to help fund needed improvements at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. The quarter-cent sales tax was supposed to fund a $129 million plan to replace decaying buildings. It was supposed to sunset in 2029.

Opponents argued there was nothing to stop County Commissioners from siphoning the money off to pay for other things.

Supporters dismissed this as exaggerated fear-mongering.

The tax barely won voter approval - passing by just 503 votes out of 33,245 cast (or 50.76% to 49.24%).

Within about a year, the County began siphoning off the money to pay for other things.

Since the federal indictments of County Manager Wanda Green and her corrupt leadership team, we have learned from the Citizen-Times reporting that the money was used to pay these bandits' salaries.

And now, County Commissioners are offering A-B Tech leaders a deal:

In a 4-3 vote, commissioners approved an agreement that would allow Buncombe County to use as much as $5 million of quarter-cent sales tax revenue each year to help defray A-B Tech's operating costs. It also would increase funding to address $25 million worth of deferred maintenance and would build up reserves to allow for future construction.

But the fundraisers for A-B Tech are not on board.

The fundraising arm of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College is against a county government proposal for spending tax revenue initially meant for new campus construction, and has warned trustees the deal could put at risk donations that pay for student scholarships and other financial aid.
"It seems that the local citizens lost trust in the way county government has operated," A-B Tech Foundation board chair Shelia Elingburg said Wednesday. "So, it's hard for us to ask donors to give us funds when they easily could turn around and say, 'You let the county keep your money. You didn't fight hard to get it.'"
In a letter sent earlier this month, the foundation board asked college trustees to reconsider their decision to support the agreement and instead consider continuing discussions with incoming County Manager Avril Pinder.

Some commissioners say they can't keep the campaign promises because it would require them to raise property taxes. Others say they should wait until the new County Manager takes over so she can take part in the crafting of a deal.

Pete's Prep: Friday, March 1, 2019

Pete Kaliner

Pete Kaliner

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