How Rocky Mount stacks up to other North Carolina Municipalities

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Over the past few months the Rocky Mount City Manager and Council have made some bold proposals that impact our community.  They have proposed building an event center that will cost citizens over $60 million to build and finance while the ten year projected operating loss is $4.3 million.  Most recently they have proposed a 3% to 9% pay raise for city employees to help with retention.  Depending on your point of view you can argue these proposals will be a benefit or a detriment to our community but either way you should consider how we stack up against the competition.  For comparison purposes, we are going to consider data the Town Manager of Huntersville, NC uses when presenting his budget to the public and town board. Comparison of the Top 20 NC Municipalities by Population – 2014. Although, we could have referenced The New & Observer article regarding the declining population in rural North Carolina featuring Rocky Mount.

Since 2011 Rocky Mount’s population has been flat but in 2014 our population declined by 2.4% and went from the 15th most populous city in North Carolina to the 16th.  The only other communities to lose ranking in 2014 were Wilson, Greenville and Winston-Salem.  Yet Wilson and Greenville gained population but not at the same pace as Huntersville and Asheville.

A declining population has a direct impact on the health of our economy.  Our city budget is impacted by a reduction in licenses, permits, sales and property tax revenues.   Will we have enough money to maintain our capital investments, support our services and operate facilities; not to mention, many municipalities such as Huntersville will use this information to encourage prospective businesses away from Rocky Mount.

Our property tax (ad valorem) rate of $0.58 per $100 of property value is one of the states highest which is just behind High Point and Greensboro.  For example, a home in Rocky Mount with a tax value of $150,000 and a tax rate of $0.58 would have a tax bill of $870   (($150,000/100) x .58 = $870).  Yet that same home in Raleigh would have a tax bill $296 less than Rocky Mount because the tax rate in Raleigh is $0.3826 per $100 of property value.  Yes, you would be hard pressed to find a $150,000 home in Raleigh but when folks are deciding where to locate they only see that Rocky Mount’s rate is 34% greater than Raleigh’s rate.

This report indicates Rocky Mount has the most city employees per 1,000 people than the other municipalities mentioned. We have lead this category since 2011 and our next closest competitor is Wilson who lags Rocky Mount by 11.7%.  The average top 20 municipality has 10 employees per 1,000 people while Rocky Mount exceeds the average by 41%.  There are many factors to consider when staffing a city but our numbers should raise many questions like if we are operating with too many employees and at the most efficient level.

Will our declining population place additional strain on our budget forcing an increase in our property tax rate, a cut in services or both.  What will our tax rate be in 20 years if we adopt all the initiatives proposed (event center and city employee pay raises) and we continue to have a declining population? Could we be at $1.00 per $100 of property value?  If so, our example of $870 in tax obligation will increase to $1,500.

At what point do businesses and people leave because they can no longer afford to live in Rocky Mount?  Does this cause our unemployment and crime to increase?  Will we have to reduce our city staff because we no longer can afford to employ them?  Are these concerns too extreme, too paranoid or just fiscally responsible?

Source: Town of Huntersville, NC – Town Manager’s Recommended Budget – FY 11-12,  FY 12-13FY 13 – 14FY 14 – 15



  1. L. E. Langley  June 1, 2014

    Rocky Mount is my hometown. I’ve been gone for years but while there employed hundreds of people with the businesses I owned. This event center is a joke and is an inside joke. There are a few who want to feather their own nest. I am sure there is some matching federal money coming and if it’s not spent the city will lose it. They could care less about the taxpayers and they do nothing about the outrageous crime, the loss of businesses and jobs or the decrease in the population. When they are called out for the raises that are opposed or why this event center they play the “race” card. People are afraid of this council. They were elected by the people they promised “empty promises” to. Until the present powers are voted out and some common sense takes over the city will continue go downhill! What a shame, the promise this city had for so many years went down with the flood waters!

    • Johnny Cunningham  June 15, 2014

      When you have the power to make change and don’t you become an enabler to the opposing force. If you don’t support those who have no fear of the council but fight every day to rid our city of them you only have yourselves to blame. Johnny Cunningham 252-266-3858

  2. Denise  June 2, 2014

    One of the worst problems in Rocky Mount is that the city council does not represent the needs or views of the people/residents. Add the 2 sets of county commissioners to that mix, and you get more strife and division than that of the North and South during the Civil War.. Shame Shame Shane

  3. Robert  June 2, 2014

    If your giving raises to city employees, give them only to City employees that make less than $80,000. Not to those being paid $100,000 or more! How many employees make over 100 grand?

  4. Steve  June 2, 2014

    I think the community council should contact WRAL-TV and ask them to do an investigation into why the city council will not provide us the location of the event center, who owns the land and why they refuse to listen to the people and give us a vote on this hugh project.

  5. Charlene Pridgen  June 3, 2014

    Discussed my concerns for my home town with my
    Council rep. She was open to comments but her explanations/reasons to support her opinion Rocky Mount continues to be the city on the rise were lacking prospect for better days ahead. It is time to stop defending the current status and comparing us to other cities. In my opinion, the council needs to exhaust all sources to recreate the city on the rise. Council’s teamwork and forward thinking are imperative.

  6. Brenda  June 3, 2014

    I have lived in Rocky Mount my entire life. Rocky Mount use to be a great place to live & work, but that is not the case anymore. The cost of living here is outrageous. Utility bills are out of control; when your utility cost is more than your house payment, that is unbelievable. All the industry in town, which people need for jobs so they can pay those unbelievable utilities, has left Rocky Mount. I’m sure cost of doing business here is a main reason. I have yet to hear a taxpayer here say they thought we should build this event center, as a matter of fact they don’t want it. Again, the city council doesn’t care what the citizens want, it’s what they want. I also would hate to think what we paid for new roads & sidewalks on Main Street, a place that nobody goes. What we had was fine. The council & mayor here are like kids with a little money in their pocket, they just have to spend it. I agree with what I hear so many people say, as long as you have the city government that we have now Rocky Mount will continue to head toward being a dying city. We have no qualified leaders in this town, from the mayor to this city council. Now don’t even get me started on the crime rate in this town!!!!

  7. Robert  June 3, 2014

    One of the primary problems in this city was headlined in the Telegram the other day in the article about the new downtown development appointee. It was stated that the problem is all the people who don’t want to realize what a great place RM is. This is typical of elected officials who continue to make bad decisions and then blame their citizens. It’s not the citizens at fault. The City Council and all the city appointees need to take a long look in the mirror and realize that stealing from the electorate and trying to give them cheap trinkets and higher tax burdens in exchange just isn’t working these days. It’s time that government take a hit and tighten their belts. I for one am worn out with the VISIONS, the CONSULTANTS, the REPORTS, and the LEGACIES of these politicians who are elected to serve not to lead!


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