RALEIGH -- The local annual tax and fee burden now tops more than $2,000 per person in seven of North Carolina's largest cities. Mooresville ended Charlotte's 11-year run as the large city with the highest per-person local government bill. That's according to a new John Locke Foundation report.
Meanwhile, the average North Carolinian surrendered almost 4.4 percent of his personal income to fund city and county government in the 2011 budget year, down from 4.5 percent in 2010.
"The typical resident of the median county in North Carolina paid $1,242 in taxes and fees to county and municipal governments in the 2011 budget year," said report author Michael Lowrey, a JLF policy analyst in economics and regulatory policy in a press release from John Locke. "That's down from an inflation-adjusted $1,288 figure for 2010. But the numbers look different when you factor in the fact that many of the state's more populous counties also have above-average local tax and fee burdens."
Adjusting for population, the state average local government tax burden was 4.39 percent in 2011.
Local governments collected $15.2 billion in property, sales, and other taxes and fees during the budget year that stretched from July 2010 through June 2011, Lowrey reports. "Local government revenues increased by $400 million in that year," he said. "This is not to say that all revenue sources increased. Sales tax revenues were flat, while property tax receipts increased by about $150 million. Water department revenues and other tax and fee income also saw significant increases."
Since the onset of the Great Recession, local governments have become increasingly dependent on property tax receipts, Lowrey said. "In 2007, property taxes made up 56.5 percent of nonutility local revenues," he said. "In 2011 that figure had increased to more than 65 percent."
Among North Carolina's largest cities, Mooresville ($2,311 per person) displaced Charlotte as having the state's largest local government burden. Chapel Hill also moved ahead of the Queen City to rank No. 2. Charlotte, Wilmington, and Durham rounded out the top five. They topped the list of 34 ranked municipalities with at least 25,000 residents. Jacksonville ($1,197 per person), Indian Trail, Thomasville, Asheboro, and Goldsboro ranked lowest in local government burden among the larger cities. Lowrey calculates the burden by adding all local taxes and fees collected in the city, then dividing by the total population.
Three coastal communities -- Oak Island, Kill Devil Hills, and Carolina Beach -- had the highest local per-person tax burdens among the 92 ranked N.C. communities with populations between 5,000 and 24,999 people. The report ranks each of these communities, along with 180 municipalities with populations between 1,000 and 4,999 people. Even residents of more than 190 municipalities with populations of fewer than 1,000 people can see how their communities rank against their peers.