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Cumberland County Officials Consider Withholding Money From Cities, Towns

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CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.C. — Like many counties in North Carolina, Cumberland County's budget is in tough shape. In a similar tactic used by the state, it is now thinking about withholding money from its cities and towns.

"As cities have annexed, the tax base for the county is decreasing," County Commissioner Billy King said.

Last year, Gov. Mike Easley withheld money from towns and cities in hopes of solving the state budget crisis. Now, some Cumberland County commissioners want to keep more money by changing the formula it uses to distribute sales tax revenue.

"Now you are talking about taking sales tax from your economic engines and distributing it to rural areas, which is unfair," Fayetteville City Manager Roger Stancil said.

If the proposal passes, Fayetteville would lose more than $4 million. City leaders say that could result in job cuts, the end of leaf collection and the halt of the mounted patrol. They are even considering closing or cutting back hours at recreation centers.

"It would be very sad if it was done away with. It gets kids out here in the spring and summer months," said Michelle Kaiser, whose four children are involved in recreation center programs.

County officials say changing the formula could avoid a 4 percent tax increase, but city officials say if things change, they might have to raise taxes. The county is expected to vote on the matter next week.

Wake County leaders considered changing the tax formula last year, but then they shelved the idea. The move would have cost cities and towns, just like in Cumberland County. Durham County leaders will meet Tuesday to discuss the issue with city officials.


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