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RALEIGH — Revenues have declined across the state, but the Department of the State Treasurer isn’t worried about the finances of local towns.
“Wake Forest has nearly four times in reserves as required by statute. Franklin County has 10 times,” said N.C. Treasurer Dale Folwell in a recent interview with The Wake Weekly. “I’m more concerned about the units of government that are on what we call the unit assistance list. They were having trouble even before COVID-19.”
No local municipalities are on that list, which is a testament to their ability to effectively manage their budgets, Folwell said.
“These are people who have been watching the pennies and paper clips already,” he said. “They’re just going to have to be even better at it. I say that as the treasurer’s office for the state and for any county or municipal government out there.”
His office has seen revenues decline across the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Folwell said. Folwell thinks this is the result of falling sales tax, occupancy tax, vehicle registration tax and more.
“But this economic virus is going to create an economic inequality that some parts of North Carolina will never be able to recover from,” Folwell said. “It’s even more troubling when you consider the fact that it seems every time this country goes through a crisis it’s the lower-income and fixed-income people that get hurt the worst.”
The economic downtown is worse on people who work manual jobs, as they are being hurt by restrictions that caused many businesses to close their doors, Folwell said.
“It just seems like we’re in a world right now where any time you challenge an assumption on any subject you’re called political,” he said. “People don’t care what political party a person’s a member of they just want their problem solved. Their problem right now is their fear of not being able to feed their family and when, if, and where they’re going to be allowed to go back to work.”
Folwell, a Republican running for reelection this year, said he’s never been briefed on the virus by the governor’s team.
“We get our information if we have a chance to watch a press conference,” Folwell said.
Folwell said his office is trying to help cities and counties with the virus response, but financial aid has to come from state legislators or the federal government.
His office is seeing significant stress on government finances across the board at the state and the local level, but there is no quick fix or single solution, he said.
“There has to be some level of compassion when we’re dealing with over a million North Carolinians who are unemployed and think about people’s abilities to pay property taxes,” Folwell said. “I think it’s prudent ... that there’s some recognition of making sure these revaluations are revenue-neutral when possible.”