Budget & Tax Survey

For the first time since the Great Recession, total county budgeted expenditures for 2015-16 exceed the amount budgeted in 2008-09. These expenditures have increased each year since a low of just under $10 billion in 2011-12, and increased by almost 11% between 2014-15 and 2015-16. At $11.06 billion, 2015-16 budgeted expenditures are slightly more than the $11.01 billion reported in 2008-09.

Of the counties responding to the survey, 86 report higher 2015-16 budgeted General Fund expenditures over 2014-15. The number of county employees increased by more than 1% (883 employees) over 2014-15, to a reported 66,153. This represents an increase of almost 4% over the low reported in 2011-12, when the total number of county employees dropped to 63,774.


Responses to this year’s Budget & Tax Survey also show that property tax revenues are expected to increase $537 million over the previous year, growth of more than 8%. Of the 20 counties that had a revaluation in 2015, 16 counties show a decrease in assessed valuation.

Keep reading for additional graphs, showing trends over the past eight budget cycles, and highlights from this year’s Budget & Tax Survey. A link to the survey spreadsheet is available at the bottom of this page. Missing data fields appear as yellow cells on the survey. If your county shows missing data, use this link to update your information on the spreadsheet. Complete data provides more comprehensive analysis for all of our 100 counties, and we appreciate your help on this annual survey.

School Finance

Total General Fund school dollars increased by 2% in 2015-16, with counties allocating $3.9 billion. This represents, on average, 35% of a county’s total General Fund budget expenditures. Counties allocated $2.7 billion in current expense funds (or operating expenses) in 2015-16. Counties will spend almost $1.15 billion on capital and debt service in 2015-16.

The allotted number of traditional public school students increased by 0.4% across the counties, while the allotted number of charter school students increased by 24% (15,364 students). Average per-pupil current expense spending, which includes charter school students, is $1,493. 


Article 46 Local Option Sales Tax Referenda

In 2007, the N.C. General Assembly granted county boards of commissioners the authority to authorize the levy of an additional quarter-cent sales and use tax, subject to voter approval. Several counties will hold a local option quarter-cent sales tax referendum under Article 46 in 2016. Click here to see the current list.

    Article 46 is a general purpose tax, which is not restricted or earmarked and can therefore be used for any allowed use by counties. A county may not stipulate the use of the money on the ballot. However, a county Board of Commissioners may adopt a resolution that stipulates how they plan to use the revenues. For example, the Moore County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution providing that all proceeds will go toward school construction and renovation projects. The Stanly County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution dedicating proceeds to public education initiatives.

    Article 46 collections are not shared with municipalities. All proceeds are distributed back solely to the County based on point of sale.

    If approved by voters in these seven counties in 2016, a total of 36 counties will collect the one-quarter cent sales tax under Article 46.

    March 2016 Update

    : Voters did not approve any of the Article 46 sales tax referenda on the March 15th ballot.

    June 2016 Update

    : Voters approved the referenda on the June ballot in Jackson and Cherokee.

    Complete county-by-county data as well as previous survey results can be found in the spreadsheets below. Please note that these are self-reported data, and do not reflect audited expenditures, revenues, or other county information.

    Survey Data XLS