RALEIGH, N.C. – Local governments across North Carolina are all fighting the same battle right now: how to budget during a pandemic.
Most revenue for local governments across the state comes from taxes on things that, because of the pandemic, are not making much money right now. That means cities and counties will also lose that money from their bottom lines.
“We don't have a hole in our budget, we've got a crater in our budget, “ Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan says.
“There's some numbers out there telling us that maybe up to 40 percent of our small businesses were not being businesses in the next couple of months,” says small business owner and Wilmington mayor Bill Saffo.
Cities are expected to have a budget in place by the end of June, but some say that likely won't happen.
“We would have taken our first vote in June for straw votes, and basically we're not,” says Julie Eiselt, Charlotte Mayor Pro-tem. “We will rely on the budget as it is from last year, and the manager and staff are looking at where we can make cuts you know what has not been spent.”
“The budget can just be thrown out the window; we're starting from scratch again,” Raleigh mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin says. “We're going to have to look at, you know, what services we can cut, what purchases we can cut, you know, same thing we did in during the recession.”
“It's already starting to be devastating for a lot of the local governments in the states,” N.C. State associate professor Bruce McDonald says. “One of the problems we have is that you start to see impacts on the revenues coming into governments because people are changing their behavior. If you stay at home you spend less money to buy fewer large items and that impacts the government. At the same time, you also demand more from your government, so it creates kind of a financial hardship.”
One area already seeing several leaders suggest they may cut back on is asking voters to approve bonds this fall. Raleigh says it's likely to cut its to just for affordable housing, and Wilmington says it may do away with its proposal all together.
“We're going to look at every department and determine what we're going to have to cut back on. Obviously there's a lot of wishlist items that we would like to see get done,” Saffo says. “We're probably gonna have to hold back on it. We were talking about a possible transportation bond but we've kind of taken that off the table because it could involve some taxation. We don't want to tax people.”
Coronavirus Causing City Budget Concerns
PUBLISHED 10:37 AM EDT Apr. 14, 2020