NC local government continues to struggle under the weight of the economic downturn. However, some counties and municipalities are beginning to at least see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Like most Americans, NC counties and municipalities have had to take a hard look at their budgets. NC local government entities have been dealt a double blow by reduced revenue from taxes and reduced funding for many social service programs from the state.
It now looks like most NC Local Government entities have weathered the worst of the storm through a combination of budget cuts and increased revenue streams.
Cuts to the budget have been found by:
- Closing or reducing the hours and/or staff in public libraries;
- Instituting local government hiring freezes or eliminating vacant positions;
- Freezing annual wage increases for county employees;
- Delaying infrastructure improvements;
- Cutting back on services.
On the flip side, many counties have supplemented their budgets by:
- Enhancing property tax collection rates with new software;
- Dipping into their local government fund balances from previous years;
- Charging fees for services that were formerly free (such as fire service);
- Raising the property tax rate.
Some local government entities are now looking to the future and preparing to take advantage of new revenue opportunities in the technology and energy sector. For example, New Hanover County recently became the first in the nation to launch Super Wi-Fi, an innovation that will not only help to save taxpayers money, but make the area attractive to more businesses and even residents.
Meanwhile, Henderson County is looking towards the possibility of solar farms that could bring a new industry to the area and with it a larger tax base.
According to the NCACC’s 2011-12 Tax Rate Survey, it appears that most NC local government entities are using a combination of new revenue opportunities and trimmed budgets (and not tax rate increases) as they look toward the fiscal future for their counties and municipalities.