CARTERET COUNTY — Mayors of four Carteret County towns are among others in the eastern part of the state who signed a letter asking U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, R-N.C., for assistance to address revenue shortfalls resulting from the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Mayors Eddie Barber of Emerald Isle, Rett Newton of Beaufort, Dennis Barber of Newport and Jerry Jones of Morehead City were among the 29 eastern North Carolina mayors to sign the June 10 letter.
“We know that these are difficult times for all levels of government and those who work to provide services to our citizens,” the mayors said in the letter to the senator. “We need your support for federal legislation to address this need so that our communities can move forward and so that an economic downturn is not prolonged.”
Mayor Barber said Wednesday the N.C. League of Municipalities wrote the letter and he agreed with its intent.
“At this point I don’t know how much (the virus-related revenue losses) will affect us in Emerald Isle,” he said, “but we all need to try to get as much as we can from the federal government.
“We know there will be big expenses. We all just thought that collectively we stand a better chance of getting what we know we’re going to need.”
In the letter, the mayors said the greatest challenges moving forward are making up for revenue lost from declines in the state-shared sales tax, local occupancy taxes and water and sewer system income because residents can’t pay their bills.
For example, the letter states the National League of Cities forecasts that for the fiscal year that ends Tuesday, June 30, Kinston will experience a loss of sales tax revenue of approximately $410,000, plus utility fee losses.
Projections for fiscal year 2020-21 are equally problematic, the letter states, and “will seriously hamper the City of Kinston’s ability to provide services to residents, support its 379 employees, and keep up with … maintenance.”
Kinston, the letter states, is just one of 70 municipalities in the state’s 3rd Congressional District that will face hardship as a result of shortfalls directly brought about by the COVID-19 crisis.
Locally, Morehead City anticipates $1.4 million or more in lost revenues as a result of the pandemic, mostly from lost sales tax revenue. The city laid off more than a dozen workers in May to counteract the budget shortfall, but officials still expect finances to be tight going into the new fiscal year and beyond.
“Our communities are heavily reliant upon the tourism industry, especially upon the sales and occupancy taxes generated by visitors,” the mayors wrote in the June 10 letter. “Meanwhile, our inland cities and towns are regional shopping hubs, and the decline in retail, business, and industrial activity will continue to significantly affect revenues and our ability to make crucial investments that private businesses and citizens alike depend upon.”
Furthermore, “Cities and towns did not cause the situation that they now find themselves in; a global pandemic did,” the mayors wrote. “Their needs are neither Republican nor Democratic. Their needs are the needs of the citizens of our state, in small towns and in larger cities.”
The mayors urged Sen. Tillis to “move beyond this crisis to a better day and support legislation that will address local revenue shortfalls and ensure a strong economic future.”
Reporters Jackie Starkey and Elise Clouser contributed to this report.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.