NC Rural Center

Patrick Woodie
NC Rural Center

The North Carolina Rural Center is holding its 2014 Rural Assembly today in Raleigh.  It’s been two years since the last gathering.

2013 was not a good year for The Rural Center.  The non-profit was issued a scathing audit and its longtime leader Billy Ray Hall was forced to retire.

Patrick Woodie is the newly named president. 

NC General Assembly; State Legislature.
Matthew Lenard

Most of the money formerly under the oversight of the once-powerful Rural Center has officially reverted to the state. Until recently, the non-profit Rural Center handed out taxpayer-funded grants for economic development and infrastructure.

But an audit found the Center had earned 20 million dollars worth of interest off money given by the state over the years. Lawmakers disapproved, and expressed dismay at staff members’ high salaries. So they made plans to strip the Center of its power.

NC General Assembly

State lawmakers in Raleigh held a meeting Tuesday to discuss moving funding from some non-profit groups to the state Department of Commerce. The joint oversight commission included an update on the shrinking of the state’s Rural Economic Development Center, a formerly powerful organization that provided grants to rural areas. Most of the center’s assets are in the process of shifting to the Department of Commerce.

NC Legislative building
NC General Assembly

The North Carolina General Assembly is set to vote on a budget this week, one that has defenders of public education up in arms. The proposed budget ends teacher tenure, holds teacher salary flat and cuts funding for teacher assistants.

The North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center and the Office of State Budget and Management are working to resolve issues in last week’s crippling audit.

The Rural Center wants the state budget office to release funds already obligated to local governments and other rural partners.  The problem is, the state budget office has lost confidence in the Rural Center and legislators have eliminated funding for the center in its preliminary fiscal year 2014-2015 budget.

Billy Ray Hall
NC Rural Center

Governor Pat McCrory is calling for new leadership at the NC Rural Economic Development Center.  This comes after a scathing audit of the non-profit.  In a statement released Wednesday, Governor McCrory pretty much called for Rural Center President Billy Ray Hall and Board Chairwoman Valeria Lee to step down.  Both were instrumental in the Rural Center’s inception in 1987.

The fallout comes after a new state audit of the Rural Center which shows a failure of the organization to provide proper oversight of millions of dollars in grants.  Auditor Beth Wood says it’s disappointing.