Northampton lags behind in ABC revenue

Published 4:55 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2023

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JACKSON – At the Northampton County Commissioners’ first meeting of the year here Jan. 4, Board Chair Charles Tyner said he’d like to work with the local ABC Board to make some changes in the future.

The topic of discussion came up as the commissioners discussed an agenda item to appoint a new member to the county’s ABC Board following a recent resignation. With a motion by Commissioner Kelvin Edwards, a second by Commissioner Ed Martin, and then a unanimous vote in favor, they approved Phillip Wray of Gaston to fill the position.

But while they were on the subject of ABC Boards during the meeting, Tyner suggested they take a closer look at the local board and work with them to make improvements.

ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) Boards exist in all but two counties in North Carolina, and their mission is to responsibly control the sale of liquor. Northampton County’s ABC Board operates four ABC stores, located in Conway, Gaston, Jackson, and Rich Square.

“We’re the only county in this whole region that does not get a dime from ABC sales in the county,” Tyner declared in his remarks. “We, in Northampton County, got to figure out what we’re doing wrong in ABC.”

But according to information from the state’s ABC Commission, which oversees all local ABC Boards, Northampton County received a revenue distribution of $10,520 in Fiscal Year 2021 from the county’s ABC Board. That money was designated for law enforcement.

The state commission’s website for Northampton County’s ABC Board notes that gross profits are to be distributed for alcohol education and law enforcement in accordance with state statutes. Any net profits will then be distributed 25 percent to incorporated municipalities (based on population) and the remainder to the Northampton County General Fund.

The breakdown of revenue distributions from ABC Boards varies from county to county.

The News Herald reached out to Northampton County officials for more recent numbers for Fiscal Year 2022. Board Clerk Itia Robertson stated that the county received $24,000 in profits from the ABC Board at the end of FY22.

“In previous years when compared to other counties, Northampton County received significantly less than counties with upgraded stores and self-service,” she clarified.

At the Jan. 4 meeting, Tyner said they should work to figure out how to strengthen Northampton’s ABC Board.

“We’ve got these old stores,” he pointed out. “ABC stores are done now just like grocery stores. You go around and pick what you want.”

He referenced Hertford County’s ABC store in Murfreesboro that opened last year as an example. Unlike the town’s previous store, the new one is an “open operation” where customers can browse the shelves for their alcohol selection instead of choosing bottles behind a glass-covered display.

“We have got to work with them [the Northampton ABC Board] to make some changes in Northampton County,” Tyner concluded.

Edwards spoke up to agree with Tyner’s remarks. He recalled seeing in other counties, such as Edgecombe and Nash, that ABC revenues had been used to provide scholarships to students. He said it would be great if they could one day do the same for Northampton County students.

The News Herald also reached out to Northampton’s neighboring counties for more information about their own ABC Board revenues. The results showed that surrounding counties did typically receive higher distributions from their ABC sales compared to Northampton County.

Halifax County’s Finance Director reported that their ABC Board’s total gross sales for 2022 were $8,151,212. Of that amount, over $362,000 was distributed back to the county.

Halifax County’s ABC Board operates five stores.

According to Bertie County Manager Juan Vaughan II, the total amount of gross sales in FY22 were $1,316,217 and the county is expecting to receive $35,978 in profit distributions.

There is only one store in Bertie County.

Representatives from Gates County’s Finance Office stated their FY21 distribution total was $30,309, along with an additional $3,000 for Alcohol Law Enforcement and $3,058.68 for bottle tax. There are two ABC stores in Gates County.

Representatives from Hertford County did not respond to inquiries, but the state ABC Commission website lists the revenue distribution totals for FY21 was $114,979 with a little over $99,400 of those funds earmarked for the county and municipalities. Hertford County has two ABC stores.