Education and human services are the largest sources of expenditures for most counties. In North Carolina, counties are required to build and maintain public school buildings. Many counties offer salary supplements to attract and retain qualified teachers, and counties also hire additional personnel like teacher aides or deputies to patrol the schools during the day. Human services programs, such as mental health, public health and social services, also make up a significant portion of county budgets. In 2006, education and human services spending accounted for more than half of county expenditures.*
Counties also spend a significant amount of their budget on public safety (Sheriff’s Department, volunteer fire departments and Emergency Medical Services), debt service (to pay off existing bonds for capital facilities) and general government operations.
Counties are required to adopt a balanced budget, and most counties strive to maintain a “fund balance” (savings account) of at least 8 percent of their total budget in case revenues do not meet projections or expenditures are higher than anticipated.
* Source: N.C. Department of the State Treasurer