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State votes to dissolve Scotland County town due to finances

The tiny town of East Laurinburg will cease to exist at the end of June 2022.

After years of struggling to meet the financial requirements for the state, the North Carolina Local Government Commission — which is led by the state treasurer and composed of the state auditor, secretary of state and appointees — voted unanimously to dissolve the town on Tuesday.

The panel agreed the community met thresholds in a new law that gives the commission the dissolution authority. This was the first time the law was applied.

East Laurinburg is home to just under 250 people. The current mayor and council members were all elected as write-in candidates in this fall’s elections. For the last five years, town officials failed to provide a financial audit to the state.

State officials had called for East Laurinburg to un-incorporate voluntarily. However, after learning that East Laurinburg's ex-finance director spent more than $11,000 of the town's funds for personal use, including her home's utility bills, the commission chose to move forward with the vote to dissolve the town.

Naomi Prioleau

The dissolution means East Laurinburg will now be a neighborhood without a mayor or property taxes. Towns like Bethel, Eureka and Robersonville have all had to un-incorporate or are on the brink of it, usually due to poor financial management.

Town assets for East Laurinburg will now be transferred to another local government, most likely Scotland County.

Last spring, when the Local Government Commission issued their recommendation for the town to de-charter, officials with the commission said they didn't take the decision lightly.

"This is not an action we like to take, but the LGC’s staff is not positioned to take the keys from locally elected officials and get into the business of running towns that are not financially viable,” State Treasurer Dale Folwell said in April. “We may have more of these going forward.”

It was the first time the commission had made a similar recommendation against any local government.

Copyright 2021 North Carolina Public Radio

Naomi Prioleau joined WUNC in January 2017 as their Greensboro Bureau reporter.