Population shifts and N.C. policies squeezing cities

Patsy Kinsey
Patsy Kinsey

From Patsy Kinsey, a member of the Charlotte City Council, a former Charlotte mayor and a member of the N.C. League of Municipalities Board of Directors:

With another North Carolina legislative session fully underway, cities and towns across the state enter their budget cycles full of financial and economic uncertainty.

In Raleigh, there are discussions of a major redistribution of sales tax revenue, a change that would cost Charlotte nearly $3 million. Meanwhile, legislators have failed to address the revenue losses associated with the pending repeal of the privilege license tax, which could cost our city more than $18 million.

Against this backdrop of policy proposals from the state capital, Charlotte, other larger cities in the state, and the towns in close proximity to them are seeing some of the largest population increases in the country. Other areas of the state are experiencing population declines associated with the loss of traditional manufacturing jobs moving overseas.

It is important to note that the pending losses associated with the repeal of the privilege license tax are not simply a “big city problem,” even as Charlotte will suffer the largest loss from a dollar perspective. Pineville will lose more than $550,000; Matthews will experience a $188,000 drop; for Belmont, the cost will come to $85,000, the equivalent of nearly a penny on that town’s property tax rate.

Simply put, North Carolina municipalities are dealing with unprecedented change and challenges.

In light of these challenges, the N.C. League of Municipalities will be hosting the third in a series of regional meetings in Pineville on Monday to foster a statewide conversation about the future of municipal finance and municipal services.

This meeting series, “A Path Forward: Vibrant Cities Today and Tomorrow,” will focus not just on the pending revenue loss for cities and towns. It also will examine the broader challenges facing municipalities as they deal with significant population shifts against a backdrop of state policies that limit municipal growth and potentially alter traditional roles of government.

As we continue this conversation, we cannot overlook the important role that city services play in residents’ quality of life, and how that quality of life helps to attract economic development, benefiting all of North Carolina. Also, we cannot ignore the role that modest property tax rates across the state play when it comes to bringing jobs here. Putting more pressure on the property tax and services that they pay for is no way to grow this state’s economy.

State legislators deserve praise for wanting to create an optimal tax structure that puts all areas of North Carolina on the path of economic success. Our cities – the economic engines of our state – cannot be damaged in the process. Our state requires a path forward that helps everyone, whether they live in Charlotte or Shallotte, Dare County or Duplin County.