JLF Research | Policy Reports

A Blank Check for Buncombe: County commissioners ask voters for a sales-tax increase

Dr. Michael Sanera
Sep. 14th, 2011
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Key facts:

  • Buncombe County commissioners and the president of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (AB Tech), Hank Dunn, are promising voters that the $7 million that would be raised by a proposed sales-tax increase would be given to AB Tech for a new building and renovations, despite knowing that the funds would go into the county’s general fund and could be spent on any legal purpose.
  • Additionally, promises made by the current county commission are not binding on future commissions that would be free to spend the funds on any legal purpose.
  • The commissioner’s official Code of Ethics, passed just last year, requires the commissioners to “inform and educate the citizenry about the affairs and processes of county government,” not to mislead voters with promises that have no basis in law.
  • The appropriate way to fund buildings and renovations at AB Tech is to offer voters a bond issue, which would legally guarantee that the funds were used for the promised purpose.
  • Since 2005, commissioners have increased the county debt by 32 percent, ignoring voter accountability by using non–voter-approved debt.
  • The non–voter-approved debt for AB Tech could cost taxpayers a 10 percent debt service premium compared with a voter-approved bond.
  • Voters should receive assurances that the $7 million in new revenue from the proposed sales-tax increase would not go to pay the tax rebates given to Linamar Corporation as incentives to move into the Volvo plant, which the county recently purchased for $7 million. 
  • Voters should require the commissioners and Dunn to produce an academically sound economic study that would show how transferring $7 million from taxpayers to county government would create a net increase in jobs in Buncombe County.

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Regional Brief 79: A Blank Check for Buncombe: County commissioners ask voters for a sales-tax increase
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