RALEIGH – The Asheville Civic Center is deteriorating and has lost nearly $1 million a year since 2000, prompting the city to convene a task force to find a solution. According to two John Locke Foundation analysts, the task force should focus on the most obvious solution: selling the Asheville Civic Center to the private sector.
The report, “Solving Asheville’s Civic Center Dilemma: Making Lemonade Out of a Lemon,” was written by Dr. Michael Sanera, JLF’s research director and local-government analyst, and research intern Travis Fisher. Sanera and Fisher gave several reasons why selling the Civic Center would make sense for Asheville and how the sale would turn a budgetary drain into a budgetary gain.
The center’s revenue consistently fails to cover its cost, the authors write. It has had $5.7 million in operating losses since 2000.
“The continuing loss of nearly $1 million per year is impossible to defend given the other vital needs of the city,” Sanera said, “especially the dire need for better police protection.”
Selling the Asheville Civic Center would be an immediate financial gain for the city, Sanera and Fisher found, but it would also save money in the long run. The city would no longer have to cover its operational losses, it would get property tax revenue from the new owner, and also the city’s taxpayers would not be on the hook for renovation costs for the deteriorating facilities.
A Heery International study estimated renovation and modernization costs of the Civic Center complex to be from $73 million to $115 million and suggested those expenses be made up in new and expanded taxes. Since Asheville residents have paid about $82 per person to cover the Civic Center’s costs, regardless of whether they ever attend a function, and many attendees are nonresidents who aren’t taxed to support the center.
“The city should not contemplate new taxes to support the private entertainment of only a portion of city residents, especially when a viable alternative is readily available,” Sanera said. “Selling the Civic Center is the closest thing Asheville can get to ‘having your cake and eating it, too.’”
Dr. Michael Sanera and Travis Fisher’s Policy Report, “Solving Asheville’s Civic Center Dilemma,” is available on the John Locke Foundation website. For more information, contact Sanera at 919-828-3876 or [email protected].