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Charlotte still No. 1 when it comes to high government costs

Staff report

RALEIGH — Charlotte still tops North Carolina’s list of cities with the highest local government costs, according to a new report from the Raleigh-based Center for Local Innovation.

Wilmington, Asheville, Durham, and Chapel Hill rounded out the top five in the rankings of combined city and county costs per person.

Salisbury ranked 15th, with local taxes and fees costing $1,629 per resident.

The list compared the 29 North Carolina municipalities with at least 25,000 residents.

Jacksonville, Thomasville, Kannapolis, Goldsboro, and Burlington ranked lowest among the larger cities.

Kannapolis, at $1,219 per person, ranked 27th.

Among other area cities, Huntersville ranked ninth ($1,749), Matthews 13th ($1,661), Monroe 16th ($1,559), Concord 17th ($1,554), Statesville 18th ($1,520), and Gastonia 21st ($1,449).

Local taxes and fees in Charlotte totaled about $2,113 per resident in 2005, down from $2,185 in 2004. Even with the decrease, North Carolina’s largest city ranks No. 1 for local government costs among major cities for the sixth year in a row.

But the report also shows the average Charlotte resident paid less money for city and county services in 2005 than in 2004.

Among 91 medium-sized municipalities, several Charlotte-area communities ranked above the state median in local government costs, including Cornelius ($2,000), Pineville ($1,975), Mooresville ($1,840), and Davidson ($1,829).

Those with tax and fee burdens closer to the median were Mint Hill ($1,544), Albemarle ($1,403), Cherryville ($1,365), Mount Holly ($1,364), Belmont ($1,342), and Shelby ($1,199). Bessemer City ($1,191), Wadesboro ($1,173), Harrisburg ($1,160), Kings Mountain ($1,106), Stallings ($1,067), Indian Trail ($875), Weddington ($837), and Unionville ($778) had costs significantly below the median.

By The Numbers 2007: What Government Costs in North Carolina Cities and Counties is the ninth such report published by CLI, a division of the John Locke Foundation.

“The cost of local government is rising and seems to be doing so at a rate faster than either population or inflation,” said CLI Director Chad Adams. “The ultimate reality is that North Carolinians fund that growth from their personal incomes.”

Lowrey and Adams noted that a high cost-of-government ranking in By The Numbers 2007 does not necessarily mean that a city or county is poorly governed.

“By The Numbers is a tool that represents factual data only, without editorial comment or bias,” Adams said. “The report does not attach the label of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ to a particular ranking. Taxpayers can use the rankings and the numbers to evaluate whether or not the services they receive from local government merit what they are paying for them.”

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