RALEIGH — North Carolina’s budget season is in full swing. Though Raleigh’s epic showdown over ending the temporary sales tax is newsworthy, local budgetary issues also loom large.

As a backdrop, most counties going through the revaluation process are seeing a dip in property values. In Brunswick County, valuations dropped by a staggering 30 percent, or $9 billion. In Henderson County, valuation dropped by 10 percent. Both counties are trying to adopt revenue-neutral budgets this year. Most also are seeing drops in sales tax revenues.

The good news should be that counties and cities are making tough decisions about what constitutes a needed expense. When looking over the tough budget decisions, is law enforcement on equal footing with nonprofit funding? Are walking trails and other “green” projects worthy of taxpayer funding to the same degree as roads or water infrastructure?

This is also a unique opportunity to embrace ideas like competitive sourcing and performance management, long advocated by free-market enthusiasts and fiscal hawks. Anything that cities or counties (even school systems) do that can be bid competitively by a private sector company should be attempted.

Government jobs should be protected no more than those in the private sector, which has shed them in record numbers. Performance management creates a methodology that rewards stellar employees and gets rid of those who don’t perform. And yes, it has been done!

As school boards and county commissioners debate, remember that the Department of Public Instruction tells every school system that all needed teachers are funded by the state. Local governments using property tax dollars to pay for teachers must be questioned. Supplements for administrative personnel and bureaucrats also should face tough scrutiny.

Nonprofits represent additional savings for local governments that routinely dole out millions to them. Justification for public funding abounds, but it also can undermine the viability of nonprofits. When nonprofits struggle to raise money from private donors, they often turn to local government. Once they do, it becomes easier to convince a voting majority of any given board to rely on tax dollars rather than private fundraising. Without folks raising community awareness, the nonprofit becomes addicted to the handout — becoming a ward of the government — and loses community support.

Cities and counties also deploy furloughs, job freezes, layoffs, and across-the-board cuts. Though these strategies can save money, they also can be counterproductive. A better strategy would be utilizing flex time, which can provide more services for the same amount of money by extending employee hours.

Job freezes and layoffs are good for headlines. But looking at attrition and focusing on actual efficiency are better money savers than cutting needed positions. When a child-support agent leaves and the position is frozen, that position’s caseload has to be divided among the remaining staff. The result often is lower child support collections.

Across-the-board cuts are popular but very dangerous, as local government ends up cutting high-performing areas on an equal basis with those that aren’t pulling their weight. If a police department has driven down crime significantly, cutting it by 5 percent doesn’t help the performance of local government.

Looking at budgets as citizens is much different than working behind the desk as an elected official, especially in tough times. It takes real leadership to take on the status quo and implement genuine fiscal change. This economy should make the challenge a lot easier to embrace. Those who do will have prepared their local governments to be far more nimble and responsive to legitimate needs in the future.

Chad Adams is host of “The Morning Beat” on 93.7 FM and 106.3 FM The Big Talker in Wilmington.