RALEIGH – Over most of the last decade, under Republican legislative control, the State of North Carolina has practiced a relatively conservative style of fiscal management in which debts are paid, savings reserves are funded, and tax dollars are accounted for. That’s not to say state government could not be considerably more conservative with taxpayers’ money, but it’s management is stellar compared to many local governments around the Old North State.
North Carolina’s State Auditor Beth Wood, a Democrat, is calling out such local governments and the Carolina Journal is reporting on how she wants to punish local officials that can’t seem to ‘keep their books straight.’
“If you want to be an incorporated town, then you’ve got to take responsibility,” Wood told Edenton Town Manager Anne-Marie Knighton in a withering rebuke during a state Local Government Commission meeting Tuesday, Jan. 8. “How can you run a town if you don’t know how much money you have?”
Edenton is seeking approval from the Local Government Commission to issue $2.64 million in bonds to renovate and upgrade the town’s Beaver Hill and Freemason water treatment plants. Local governments must obtain commission approval to add to their debt financing. The commission, which is staffed by the N.C. Treasurer’s Department, arranges sale of the bonds.
But Wood zeroed in on Edenton’s checkered fiscal management in initially recommending denial of its request. Its fund balance plummeted from 36 percent in 2017 to 15.4 percent, or $972,301, in 2018. A serious lack of internal financial controls, and failure to reconcile a number of budget areas were cited, among other trouble spots.
“It’s against the law to overspend your budget,” an obviously agitated Wood told Knighton, later apologizing for venting her frustration on Edenton for recurring problems with many municipalities.
So what does Wood, and the rest of the commission, plan to do about mismanaged towns like Edenton and more than 100 others? Read more from the Carolina Journal here.