New Shift…New Dynamics

Paul Fogleman,

Wake and Mecklenburg Counties are racing to the top. Mecklenburg with 1.055 million people is the largest, followed closely by Wake with 1.029 residents. But Wake’s rate of growth is the fastest. Some 67 people move into Wake every day…almost 30,000 new people every year. Raleigh, Charlotte and eight other cities in the top 10 have 2.39 million almost one-fifth of the total population. Per capita income in Wake and Mecklenburg is almost identical at $51,000. Warren County with a per capita income of $29,100 is the state’s poorest. Most others range from $30,000 to $45,000, with Buncombe, Catawba, Durham, Orange, Guilford, Forsyth and Gaston over $40, 000.

The dynamics of the shift has divided state legislators and not just along partisan lines. Residents of the poorer counties are paying a tax rate approaching $1.00 per assessed valuation and are still struggling with inadequate public schools and infrastructure. Businesses looking to move to North Carolina have employees who demand quality schools, more shopping opportunities, entertainment and a diverse culture. Senator Harry Brown, Senate majority leader and Appropriations Chair, has challenged counties in his district. He sees the schools in need of repair in high-taxed locations. He has floated the concept of sharing sales taxes, most collected in the metropolitan areas. As expected he has met resistance. Brown also frets that a huge percent of state incentive money has gone to Wake and Mecklenburg Counties where businesses prefer to locate.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays,

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