by Sarah Curry
Director of Fiscal Policy Studies
North Carolina’s 100 counties derive their spending authority from the General Assembly. The state legislature permits local governments to raise tax revenue, budget and manage that revenue, and disburse funds to support activities at the discretion of elected officials. Counties have also been given broad authority to engage in economic development activities. Some of these include employing agents to meet, negotiate with, and assist businesses interested in locating or expanding in the community, administering unsubsidized revolving loan funds, distributing cash grants, developing strategic plans for economic development, and constructing public facilities.
Currently there is no single data source that tracks the expenditure of tax revenue on economic development activities at the local level. To address this need, we collected and categorized economic development spending in all 100 counties in North Carolina.
Between FY 2009 and FY 2014, 81 out of North Carolina’s 100 counties participated in economic development activities. Counties entered into 776 contracts worth nearly $284 million in incentives over the five-year period. Actual payments, however, totaled $144 million.