Raleigh, N.C. — A unit of the State Treasurer's Office took control Monday of the books for financially strapped Princeville, with the goal of getting the Edgecombe County town's budget back in order.
The move by the state Local Government Commission was only the fifth time since the 1930s that the state has assumed control of a North Carolina town's finances. Princeville has the dubious distinction of being on the list twice – the commission also had to straighten out its books in 1997.
"We don't believe the town really has the adequate staff and capacity to address all the serious issues they are facing," said Vance Holloman, secretary of the Local Government Commission.
The state says Princeville's expenses exceed its $1 million annual budget in every functional area by a combined 9 percent and that the town is in danger of defaulting on a $310,700 loan to replace its water meters.
Earlier this month, Princeville shut off water to nearly a quarter of the town in an effort to collect money owed by those customers.
"It appears to me that the financial condition has significantly deteriorated," state Revenue Secretary David Hoyle said.
Mayor Priscilla Everette-Oates pleaded with the state to give Princeville another 30 days to get its financial act together.
"We have worked diligently on the budget," Everette-Oates said. "We don't need them to take the books. We need for them to come and assist us so we can get our things back in order."
Town commissioners, however, backed the Local Government Commission's move.
"The town is in a critical stage now. We really need your help," Town Commissioner Gwendolyn Knight said.
"The only way you're going to really help us is to impound our financial situation there," Town Commissioner Ann Howell said.
Everette-Oates has asked the town attorney to look into appealing the state's decision, but the Local Government Commission already has ordered town staffers to stop writing checks.