Craven County Government

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Craven County was named after William, Earl of Craven

Craven County Government

In North Carolina, county government is the level of government that directly impacts every citizen. County governments were  originally created by the state to give citizens greater access to state government services. In the days of horse and buggy citizens could not be expected to travel to Raleigh every time they needed government services. Therefore the state legislature created counties, and the governor appointed justices of the peace to oversee each county and carry out the mandated policies and services of state government.

After the Civil War, the new NC Constitution gave citizens more input into electing their local leaders. Citizens were given the power to elect the sheriff, county coroner, register of deeds, clerk of court, and the newly created board of commissioners. The commissioners replaced the justices of the peace and were given the responsibility for the county finances and setting the property tax rate. Today, the counties remain an arm of the state government and carry out many of the services that are mandated onto them by the state and federal government. The state legislature determines how many counties there are and what the boundaries will be.

Who Runs the County?

The citizens of each of the 100 counties elect a board of commissioners. In Craven County the elections for commissioners are held every 4 years. The board of commissioners have the authority to hire a professional manager to oversee the day to day operations of the county government. In addition to the county manager, the commissioners hire the county attorney, and a clerk to the county board. Generally speaking, the county manager is responsible for hiring the other 600 plus employees for Craven County.

The board of commissioners sets the property tax rate and adopts the county budget each year. The budget is adopted by way of an ordinance must be voted on by June 31 of each year. By law, a county budget must be balanced, and counties are required to maintain a fund balance or savings account equal to 8 percent of their budget. Each year department heads must submit a budget to the county manager. The county manager and his staff will review the  department's budget and after making changes will submit it to the commissioners for review. The board also establishes county policies by adopting resolutions and local laws known as ordinances. 

Counties receive funding from several sources, but property taxes provide the bulk of the revenue. In Craven County the property tax accounts for about 43 percent of the annual revenue. Click here for tax rates in Craven County.

Counties do not have the authority to implement new taxes or increase existing taxes, other than property taxes which they can adjust at any time. The North Carolina Constitution requires that all property be assessed at its fair market value and requires counties to re-assess property values every 8 years. Counties have the option to re-assess more frequently if they desire. Local sales taxes are another important source of revenue for counties, and provide about 20 percent of Craven County revenue. The counties share the sales tax with all the municipalities within its bounties and the state government. Charges for certain services such as building permits, copies at the register of deeds, fire protection, various test at the health department, account for 15 percent of the counties revenue. The balance mostly comes from the state or federal government in the form of pass through, or grant money to furnish services mandated by the state or federal government.

Where does the money go?

In North Carolina, counties are required to build and maintain school buildings. They also pay for the utilities for each school. Many counties, Craven County included, offer teacher salary supplements to attract and maintain qualified teachers. Craven County also pays for teacher aides, books, supplies and contributes funding for security personal at some schools. All this equals to about 25 percent of Craven County budget.

Social Services is the single largest single budget item, accounting for 28 percent of Craven Counties budget. The county commissioners appoint members to the Department of Social Services Board Of Directors, and the board members hire a director to oversee the day to day activities.

In Craven County there are around 280 employees that work for DSS. Due to the many problems we face as a society I expect this part of the budget will continue to increase. Five years ago there were 9 children in our foster care, today that number is around 150. The annual amount of money that passes through DSS is well over 125 million dollars. Much of that money is passed through funding from the state or federal government. In most states the state government administers public assistance programs. In NC that task is assigned to the counties. The County Department of Social Services administer the food stamp and Medicaid programs, as well as their normal duties such as foster care, child abuse, etc.

The sheriff's office accounts for about 13 percent of the budget. In NC, the sheriff is an elected official. Although the counties are required to pay the sheriffs salary and fund his staff, the sheriff answers to the voters, not the commissioners. In addition to the sheriff's office the counties are required to provide for a county jail which is run by the sheriff.

The counties are also required to provide space for the state district attorney and the state district and superior court facilities. The sheriff's department provides the security personal needed for the courts.

The health department and environmental services account for around 15 percent of the county budget. Debt service, paying off the money we have borrowed, accounts for 2 percent of the county budget.

There are two types of services provided by the county. The first kind are services that are required by the state or federal government. Some examples are the office of the register of deeds. The register of deeds is elected by the citizens and the county and is required to provide the funds to operate this office. Other examples of mandatory services are mental health care, health department, agricultural extension, building inspections, social services, and the sheriffs office. The state allows the counties to provide other services if they so desire. An example of such optional services would include public libraries, water and sewer, airport, hospital, and  parks and recreation.

The county commissioners appoint a board of directors to oversee the operation of Craven Regional Hospital. The hospital operates as an authority, which means they are responsible for overseeing all operations, and their budget operates outside of the county.

Craven County Airport also operates as an authority. The airport board of directors are appointed by the county commissioners and they hire a director to oversee day to day operations. The airport has undergone several expansions recently and now is considered to be one of the finest of its size in the Carolinas.

Solid waste is another optional government service that Craven County has elected to offer. The county contracts with several private haulers to pick up trash. The trash is hauled to a regional landfill located in Tuscarora, which is in the western part of Craven County. Craven, Pamlico, and Carteret Counties are members of the regional solid waste authority. All trash from the 3 member counties makes it way to the Tuscarora landfill for its final resting place. Here the landfill director, hired by the authority, makes sure it is disposed of in a manner that meets all state and federal requirements.

For more information about services provided by Craven County Click here

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