A tale of two entities: County vs. City

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CAMDEN COUNTY – Officials here recently announced that the county has saved $950,000 while nearby Elizabeth City tries to close a $650,000 potential budget shortfall.

To be fair, the differences between a City and a County are very stark. Elizabeth City has to fund programs for the underprivileged while that does not apply to either Pasquotank or Camden Counties. The City provides refuse removal, street sweeping and many other services, that the counties do not provide.

But, on the other hand, Camden has no grocery stores, no pharmacies and a very low commercial tax base. Most of the services that Camden residents require are found in Elizabeth City.

So the City has the services and the tax revenue while Camden remains largely rural with few costs for provided servicdes.

Camden’s general fund balance (a type of savings account for governmental entities) of $7.2 million is approximately $3 million less that that of Pasquotank despite a wide variance in population. The population of Camden County is 10,174 while Pasquotank, including Elizabeth City, is approximately 39,000. So ask yourself, who is better off?

Pasquotank County has reduced its debt, like Camden. But instead of having a surplus to pay for Capital Improvements, like Camden has managed to do, our County has no surplus without tapping savings — like they did last year. Will they take funds from the Rainy Day Fund?

Since our Commissioners say that raising taxes is off the table, how will they pay for the capital improvement costs that are sure to come from the School Board and perhaps College of The Albemarle?

As a reminder, the community college had received their Capital Improvement funding last year, but through effective spending, they saved $42,000 — which the county promptly gave away. The good news was that the money went to fund a portion of the welding lab, which seems by all accounts to be an overwhelming success.

So we are back to the original question. Who is better off — a county with somewhat lower debt and no surplus — but plenty of services — or a county that is more financially stable, which relies on surrounding counties for the needs of its residents?