Recent Blog Posts

  • Utility Rate Discounts – Can a local government cut its utility customers a break?

    Authored by: on Monday, August 17th, 2009

    This is perhaps my most frequently asked question, and it comes up in a variety of contexts. Some local governments wish to provide discounted utility services (particularly water, wastewater, and solid waste) to certain targeted populations, such as low income customers, senior citizens, and veterans. Other units seek to charge lower rates to religious, educational or other non-profit entities. Still others hope to use discounted utility rates as among their economic development incentives to attract new industries. Whatever the reason for wanting to provide the utility rate discounts, the answer is always the same—a local unit may not discount its utility rates based solely on the status of a customer or customer class. But what do I mean by status? And are there any exceptions or ways to circumvent this restriction? Read on to find out… Read more »

  • Motions to Reconsider – A Follow-up

    Authored by: on Friday, August 14th, 2009

    Last week’s posting about motions to reconsider led one reader to ask a couple of follow-up questions: (1) does a board need a specific rule in order to permit motions to reconsider, and (2) if a board does desire a specific rule, for how long a period may it permit the motion to be made. Read more »

  • Are You Certified? The New Statewide Uniform HUB Certification Program

    Authored by: on Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

    On July 1, 2009, a new Statewide Uniform Certification Program for Historically Underutilized Businesses (commonly abbreviated as “HUBs” and formerly referred to as “minority- and women-owned businesses”) went into effect.  North Carolina state agencies and local governments may now count only those businesses that are certified as HUBs through the new statewide program to determine whether their HUB participation goals have been met.  In other words, a minority- or woman-owned business that is not certified through the statewide system cannot “count” as a HUB for purposes of meeting those participation goals.
    Read more »

  • Local Police-Power Ordinances: Whatever Has Happened to Them?

    Authored by: on Monday, August 10th, 2009

    UPDATE September 2013:  Click here for an analysis by my colleague Trey Allen of the general police power as interpreted by the 2013 North Carolina Court of Appeals case of King v. Town of Chapel Hill.

                 In North Carolina some of these ordinances may be in peril, at least to the extent they are intended to govern specific uses of land or types of land development.  Sign and outdoor advertising control ordinances, telecommunication tower ordinances, polluting industry ordinances, mobile home park ordinances, steep-slope ordinances, adult business ordinances—all have been adopted by local governments, particularly Read more »

  • New Utility Debt Collection Restrictions Actually Expand Collection Authority

    Authored by: on Sunday, August 9th, 2009

    The General Assembly recently enacted SL 2009-302, with the stated purpose of prohibiting “cities and counties that operate public enterprises from using certain debt collection practices that result in a customer being liable for the past due and unpaid debts of another person.” The new act does not prohibit any debt collection practices that were not already prohibited under existing law, though. In fact, the new act actually expands local governments’ debt collection authority, albeit under limited circumstances. Let us look at the provisions in detail. Read more »

  • Issues That Have Been Decided and the Motion to Reconsider

    Authored by: on Friday, August 7th, 2009

    Here’s a situation that comes up in phone calls several times a year.  The board passes some kind of motion – adopting an ordinance, establishing a policy, making an appointment – and a meeting or two later one or more members think they may want to change their minds.  When the matter gets raised, someone on the board asserts that only a person who voted with the majority can bring the matter back up again.  Is that right? Read more »

  • The Revaluation Revolts of 2009

    Authored by: on Thursday, August 6th, 2009

    Property tax revaluations conducted in the midst of the national economic crisis ignited an explosion of taxpayer outrage across the state in early 2009.  Assuming the local housing market woes continue, counties implementing revaluations in the next few years would be wise to learn from this year’s experience and prepare for similar taxpayer unrest.  The most important lesson?  A county contemplating the postponement of its revaluation should make that decision sooner rather than later, else it risks facing the wrath of the Department of Revenue in addition to that of its taxpayers. Read more »