What is the one-fourth of one cent sales tax?
The sales tax is an additional Buncombe County sales and use tax. Although by law the ballot language cannot say so, the Buncombe County Commissioners would pass a resolution dedicating all proceeds to renovations and additions to educational facilities at A-B Tech so we can educate our students for the jobs of the future. When the cost of the program ($129,872,000) has been raised in about 17 years, the one-fourth of one cent sales tax will expire
How much will the tax cost us?
It adds two and a half cents to a $10 purchase or a quarter to a $100 purchase. Most groceries, medicine and clothing are exempt. The Chamber of Commerce estimates that a third of the total – or over $43 million – will be paid by out-of-county visitors making purchases here.
When will it end?
There is a sunset on the tax, with it expiring when the building costs ($129,872,000) have been collected. Because one-fourth of one cent will produce $6 to $7 million a year, more as the economy picks up, it could expire in about 17 years. The one-fourth of one cent is all counties can add in terms of sales tax.
What does this investment mean for our community?
Education for jobs. It means we will be able to educate our local citizens much better in health care, technology, public safety, business and transfer programs. It will enable us to expand workforce development. With new skills, we can retain and attract good jobs in key industries today and tomorrow.
Why does A-B Tech need new buildings?
The College’s master plan identifies more than $129 million in critical building needs for two reasons.
Growth in students seeking higher education for good jobs: necessary to serve the record-breaking number of people turning to A-B Tech to build better lives. Forty new curriculum programs have been added in 20 years to meet students’ needs for training and retraining, and to help local businesses grow. In the next 10 years, we expect enrollment to grow to 18,000 credit students.
Infrastructure maintenance and repair: The money generated by your investment also will allow the College to address deferred maintenance on aging facilities. Many A-B Tech buildings were constructed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and need new roofs, windows, electrical systems, energy efficient heating and air conditioning and other renovations. Much of this was deferred for budget reasons, but we cannot continue without risking both your previous investment and student safety.
Why focus on facilities rather than adding education and training programs?
We can’t provide the right education without the right facilities. There are three main reasons:
We need space because enrollment grew 45% in 10 years and nearly doubled in 20 years, so we need to accommodate past and continued growth.
With 40 new programs in 20 years and more to come, we need classrooms labs and electronic infrastructure to train students for the jobs of the future.
Infrastructure is old and needs renovation from electrical systems to roofs and sidewalks.
What is the top priority education facility?
Our first priority is a health and workforce development building to educate more people for jobs in health care, which accounts for 25% of local service sector jobs. A new facility will help upgrade classrooms, labs and programs. In addition, it will allow us to expand our nursing program and provide space for potential new programs. Finally, it will include expansion of our medical simulation clinic and additional space for workforce development and basic skills instruction.
Why not renovate buildings or use existing buildings off campus?
We considered that in our master plan. It is educationally and financially a better value to (re)build on campus. We save operating dollars and align space needs with training needs with co-located facilities. However, we do plan to construct a classroom building at the new Buncombe County Public Safety Training Facility to provide a convenient location for training our community’s first responders.
Can these funds be used to purchase or lease equipment?
No, they are for buildings, labs, classrooms and infrastructure to support 21st century education and training. For example in surgical assisting labs, simulating operating rooms are funded, not the equipment in them.
How will the new buildings impact operating costs?
In terms of personnel, there is no increase. On a cost-per-square-foot basis, we will save money because the new and renovated buildings are energy-efficient. We will fund equipment from operating revenues and grants.
Why dedicate the one-fourth of one cent sales tax to A-B Tech and not other priorities?
The necessity of having a well-trained workforce to attract and retain good jobs makes the investment in A-B Tech facilities very wise. We will be sure we are getting something tangible dedicated to a high-priority need for the taxpayers’ investment. We are working with Buncombe County to make sure when the money needed to meet critical education needs has been collected, the tax will end.
How does this impact city and county schools?
It’s a plus for them because thousands of local school graduates attend A-B Tech, as do their parents.
How will it impact the local economy? Will our money stay here?
Under state law, all work will be bid to get the best quality and price. As always, we would expect quality bids from local firms with local workers: these include architects, builders, electricians, HVAC technicians and others. Our hope is to provide jobs for local people and our use of local architects to complete the master plan represents that perspective.
Why didn’t the previous bond issues cover A-B Tech’s needs?
Since 1987, state and county bond issues provided $32.5 million for A-B Tech. Those funds were needed for renovations, and computer and hospitality management centers. They would not keep up with our enormous enrollment growth and current and future educational needs.
Why can’t you get the money somewhere else, like from the education lottery, tuition increases or a bond issue?
North Carolina community colleges do not receive money from the lottery. By law that is for pre-K and K-3 programs, K-12 construction and need-based scholarships. We do not set our tuition; it is done by the state. The state collects tuition proceeds from colleges and sends it back to us for certain functions based on a formula. We prefer tuition to be low because it enables people to obtain needed education.
With the exception of specific state bond issues, counties are responsible for their own technical community college facilities. We considered a bond referendum, but this is more efficient and more flexible in terms of meeting needs because we can secure financing against the anticipated revenues, or avoid interest costs by paying as we go.
Why should voters support A-B Tech in this struggling economy?
Voters know our good jobs of the future, attractiveness to employers and families, and the county’s prosperity depend on high-quality education and a great workforce. When voters learn the sales tax is for A-B Tech, they become more supportive. In times like these, community colleges tend to do well with the voters because today’s jobs require at least a two-year degree and the most affordable place to start higher education is a community college. Finally, voters will like the actual cost, which is 2.5 cents on a $10 purchase; it does not apply to clothes, groceries or medicine; and shoppers who come here from out-of-county will pay 30% of the tax. These advantages will help overcome the understandable anti-tax sentiment. Voters will know what they are getting, know the cost and know it is essential.
What do you say to people against any tax at this time?
This is a critical issue about the future of our local citizens and economy, and we should let the county’s voters decide.
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