Recent Blog Posts

  • How to Calculate Discovery Bills

    Authored by: on Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

    When property that should be taxed isn’t, a local government has two options.  If the property was not taxed due to a listing error, then the local government must use the discovery process in GS 105-312.  All other taxing errors must be resolved using retroactive bills issued under GS 105-394, the “immaterial irregularity” provision.

    I described the retroactive billing process in my last post.  Today I describe the discovery billing process. For the full details about both approaches, see this bulletin. Read more »

  • State and Local Government Financial Data Transparency Law

    Authored by: on Thursday, March 17th, 2016

    A provision in the state budget, Section 7.17 of S.L. 2015-241, set new transparency requirements related to certain financial data of state agencies, counties, municipalities, and local school administrative units. The law mandates full compliance by April 1, 2016. But what does it actually require?

    This post summarizes the new provisions and discusses what, if anything, local governments and local school administrative units must do by April 1. Read more »

  • Follow Procedures Prior to Acquiring Property for Redevelopment

    Authored by: on Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

    The Town of Renewville has ambitious redevelopment plans for several key—but tired and/or underdeveloped—properties along its Main Street. As we know from a prior post examining the limited situations in which a local government may discuss property acquisition in closed session, the Renewville town council intends to kick-start the redevelopment process by acquiring several of those key properties directly. After acquiring the properties, the council intends to engage development finance experts to conduct predevelopment analysis, and then it will sell the property to a private developer through a Request for Proposals (RFP) process, similar to the process completed by other North Carolina communities as described here and here.

    However, a threshold determination must first be made. Is it necessary for the town to comply with any procedural requirements prior to acquiring the property? After all, local governments typically don’t comply with any particular procedural requirements when they acquire property. In this case, however, the answer is “yes”—certain procedures must be followed if the town wishes to convey the property to private developers selected through its RFP process. The answer is the same for a county, too. This post explains why it is advisable to issue notice and hold a public hearing prior to acquiring property for redevelopment and discusses risk mitigation for local governments that fail to do so. Read more »

  • Public Comment Period Policies: What’s Legal?

    Authored by: on Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

    North Carolina state law requires city councils, boards of county commissioners, and local school boards, to provide at least one public comment period per month at a regular meeting. Many boards have adopted policies governing what may be said and done during the public comment period. Some of the restrictions in these policies are clearly legal. Some others…maybe not so much. Read more »

  • What To Do When Property That Should Be Taxed Isn’t

    Authored by: on Monday, March 7th, 2016

    Local government property tax offices are very good at what they do, with collection rates averaging around 98%.  But nobody’s perfect.  Mistakes happen.

    One common mistake is when property that should be taxed isn’t.  Perhaps the tax office never knew the property existed.  Or the tax office had the property on its tax rolls but for some reason failed to levy taxes on that property.

    Tax offices have two options to recapture taxes that should have been levied but weren’t.  One is the discovery process in GS 105-312. The other is retroactive billing authorized by the “immaterial irregularity” provision in GS 105-394. The choice between these two remedies depends on what caused the taxes to be missed.

    A few years ago I co-authored a property tax bulletin on this topic with Stan Duncan, the recently retired veteran tax official from Henderson County.  That bulletin discusses in detail how these remedies work and how to choose between them.  Today’s blog briefly summarizes that analysis and illustrates how those remedies should be used for one particularly common example of missed taxes: property that lies within a municipality but for some reason is not taxed by that municipality. Read more »

  • Iran Divestment Act – Be Careful Who You Contract With!

    Authored by: on Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

    UPDATE:  For those who have been searching the new versions of the statutes and can’t find the Iran Divestment Act based on the statute citations in the legislation, the Revisor of Statutes recodified the IDA.  The new citation is Article 6E of Chapter 147 (G.S. 147-86.55 to 147-86.63).  The FAQ’s linked below have been updated to reflect the recodified statute citations.

    During the 2015 legislative session, the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the Iran Divestment Act (S.L. 2015-118; SB455) (“the Act”) which prohibits state agencies and local governments from entering into contracts with entities that the North Carolina State Treasurer has determined are engaged in certain investment activities in the Iranian energy sector. What does this mean for local governments? Read more »

  • Is Training Time “Work” That Must Be Paid?

    Authored by: on Friday, February 26th, 2016

    Amanda works in the information technology department of Paradise County government. She is nonexempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act, meaning that she is entitled to overtime premium pay for hours worked over 40 in a week. But she is entitled to pay only for hours she actually works. Amanda has been accepted to the School of Government’s Municipal and County Administration course. She is excited to get a chance to understand the larger responsibilities and workings of local government, which will better enable her to design and code programs for the county’s very different departments. She is a little less excited when her department head tells her that she will not be paid for the time she spends in class. “That can’t be right!” she thinks. “After all, the class time all takes place during regular working hours and I’m attending the class as an employee of Paradise County.” Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), is the time Amanda spends in the Municipal and County Administration course “work” for which she must be paid? Read more »