North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
Submit this request

January 19, 1978

Subject:

Counties and Municipalities; Advertising; Use of Tax and Non-tax funds.

Requested By:

Fred Folger, Jr. Surry County Attorney

Questions:

(1)
Does a county have statutory authority to advertise the advantages of the county by the use of tax or non-tax funds?
(2)
Does the county have authority to allocate funds to the Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce for the purpose of printing and distributing a brochure designed to attract and promote industry, business and tourism in the County?

Conclusions:

(1)
Yes, but only within the limitations discussed below.
(2)
Yes, but only within the limitations discussed below.
G.S.
153A-149 sets forth those purposes for which a county may levy property taxes without a vote of the people. Advertising is not listed therein.
G.S.
158-1 specifies the amount of tax funds which may be used to promote local development in the county, but no such tax funds shall be raised or appropriated without approval at an election by the voters of the county.
G.S.
158-7.1 authorizes a county to appropriate funds for local development, as specified therein by levy of a property tax pursuant to G.S. 153A-149, and by allocation of other revenues which use is not otherwise restricted by law.

Since G.S. 153A-149(b) or (c) does not include local development within those purposes listed, it is our view that G.S. 153A-149(d) would be controlling, and any tax levy for such purpose of advertising the advantages of the county pursuant to Article 1 of Chapter 158 of the General Statutes, would require an approving vote of the people as provided for in G.S. 153A-149(d). The amount of the levy would be controlled by G.S. 158-1.

G.S. 158-2 authorized the use of funds from non-tax sources, and G.S. 158-7.1 authorizes the use of revenues other than tax funds which use is not otherwise restricted by law.

Assuming the funds have been properly appropriated in the budget pursuant to Chapter 159 of the General Statutes, and that the funds have been raised by taxation after approval of the voters of the county, or funds are non-tax funds when use is not otherwise restricted by law, then such funds could be allocated to the Chamber of Commerce if the county takes the proper safeguards as to the expenditures of such funds by the Chamber of Commerce. See Hormer v. Chamber of Commerce, 231 NC 440; 235 NC 77; Dennis v. Raleigh, 253 NC 400; G.S. 158-7.2.

A county cannot make a gift or donate public funds or property to private persons or organizations. See Strong's NC Index 2d, Municipal Corporations, Vol. 5, p.615.

Rufus L. Edmisten Attorney General

James F. Bullock Senior Deputy Attorney General