Mecklenburg County was slated to pay the town of Mint Hill for providing fire services to unincorporated areas around the county. However, leaders just discovered they don't have the money to pay the entire bill.
The county collects a tax from people in the Mint Hill Fire Service District. This fiscal year, it estimated it would collect more than $500,000, but it only collected a little more than $276,000.
The county has already paid several installments and has now overpaid the town by more than $180,000.
Town council member Tina Ross said the town was given the option to pay the money back.
"We got it and they spent it and now they want it back. It's not like we have a huge surplus of funds that we can say, 'Hey, let's just give that back,'" Ross said.
County leaders are still trying to understand what led to the miscalculation, but at least one commissioner wants Mint Hill to keep the overpayment.
"They've made their plan based on projected revenue. It's in everyone's best interest, Mint Hill's and the county's, not to force them into the situation," said Mecklenburg County Commissioner Dumont Clark.
At least one fire station said paying the money back could force it to cut staff and services. The Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department was also concerned about future funding and worried it wouldn't be able to build a new fire station in the time it had expected.
"It's a huge cut to the budget and it could set the station back a lot further," Ross said.
County leaders said they also collected about $200,000 less than they'd expected from the Charlotte Fire Service District. The County Commission could decide to pull that money from the general fund and it could be paid back through a one-cent property tax increase in that district.