Recent Blog Posts

  • Residential Exclusions for Co-Owners

    Authored by: on Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

    Today, June 1, is the deadline for taxpayers to submit applications for the three primary residential property tax exclusions: elderly & disabled, disabled veteran’s, and circuit breaker.  (That deadline is not exactly written in stone, however.)

    Once the tax office determines that a property qualifies for an exclusion (or the Board of Equalization and Review or the Property Tax Commission makes that decision for them), calculating the exclusion amount is usually simple. The elderly & disabled exclusion reduces the property’s tax appraisal by the greater of $25,000 or 50%.  The disabled veteran’s exclusion eliminates $45,000 in appraised value.  The circuit breaker exclusion requires only a bit more math, with property taxes capped at either 4% or 5% of the taxpayer’s income.

    But when co-owners are involved, these calculations can get complicated. Different owners can participate in different exclusions, requiring tax offices to mix and match exclusion amounts.  Here’s a short primer on this process. Read more »

  • Zapping Zika in North Carolina

    Authored by: on Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

    UPDATE: The 2016 Appropriations Act included provisions addressing the Zika virus. For more information, see my post summarizing 2016 public health legislation

    Summer is nearly upon us, and with summer comes mosquitoes. Where there are mosquitoes, there is mosquito-borne illness — a perennial truth that feels more salient than ever this year as the world is facing a public health emergency caused by Zika, the mosquito-borne virus presently responsible for significant outbreaks in South America and the Caribbean. Zika usually causes only mild illness in an infected person, but it is has been associated with significant birth defects. There have been clusters of babies born with microcephaly or other neurological disorders in areas where the disease is widespread. This has prompted the World Health Organization to declare Zika a public health emergency of international concern.

    Zika has already arrived in the continental United States in the form of infected travelers, but it is not currently spreading through mosquito bites on the mainland. However, the U.S. has mosquitoes that are capable of becoming infected with Zika by biting an infected person, and some of them are present in North Carolina. If a mosquito becomes infected with Zika and then bites more people, the disease could spread. Accordingly, states that have the mosquito types of concern are developing Zika action plans — which gives us the satisfying acronym ZAP (a term I’d love to take credit for but must attribute to the CDC, which held a ZAP summit for state and local public health officials in April).

    This post takes a look at North Carolina public health laws and programs that are relevant to responding to the Zika virus in this state.  Read more »

  • More In Rem Resources

    Authored by: on Friday, May 27th, 2016

    In rem foreclosure is becoming an increasingly popular remedy for enforcing local government liens on real property.  The process is quicker and cheaper than traditional mortgage-style foreclosures and can be used for a variety of liens including property tax liens, nuisance abatement liens, minimum housing code enforcement demolition liens, and ambulance service liens.

    The increased popularity of in rem foreclosure has led to increased demand for in rem guidance and resources.  I’m hopeful my newest publication, In Rem Foreclosure Forms and Procedures, will help satisfy that demand. Read more »

  • Legislative Proposal Regarding Body-Worn Cameras

    Authored by: on Friday, May 20th, 2016

    [UPDATE: The bill summarized in this blog post has been significantly revised. Go here for a summary of the most recent edition.]

    Many North Carolina law enforcement agencies have invested in body-worn cameras (BWCs). A major selling point is transparency. The cameras will document law enforcement activities and the recordings may be especially important in situations where there are questions about whether officers have performed appropriately. As I noted in my blog post here, the status of these records under the North Carolina public records law is not entirely clear. The criminal investigation records exception in the Public Records Act likely applies to most BWC recordings. Under that exception the recordings are not public records. Some of the recordings may be confidential personnel records under the city, county or state personnel privacy statutes. North Carolina cities and counties have adopted varying polices regarding the release of these recordings.

    In the current session of the General Assembly, state legislators have taken a step toward a uniform set of rules with the introduction of House Bill 972. This blog post describes the key provisions of the proposed law and provides comments about how it might be interpreted and implemented if enacted. Read more »

  • Court Of Appeals Continues to Expand Inventory Exclusion

    Authored by: on Friday, May 6th, 2016

    The property tax exclusion for inventory keeps getting bigger. Traditionally, the exclusion was limited to property that was held for sale and not put to any other use.  But last year the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that the inventory exclusion applies to jet airplanes that are used for corporate trips so long as those jets remain for sale.  And last month that same court expanded the inventory exclusion to cover property never even offered for sale in the Appeal of Michelin North American, Inc.

    The Michelin case involved taxation of tires used in the company’s testing facility in Mecklenburg County.  The company argued that the tires, valued at roughly $500,000, should be considered excluded inventory. The county disagreed based on the fact that the tires were not held for sale.  The dispute went before the Property Tax Commission, which ruled in favor of the county in late 2014.  In early April 2015 the Court of Appeals reversed the PTC decision and ruled in favor of the company after an extended analysis of the Machinery Act’s definition of “inventory.”

    The specific property at issue in the Michelin case—aircraft tires that must be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. military—is unlikely to be a concern for many other counties.  But the principle involved in this case is extremely important for all counties: the inventory exclusion is no longer limited to property held for sale.   Read more »

  • Making Sense of Subdivision

    Authored by: on Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

    What developments qualify as subdivisions and which ones are exempt?  Who can review a subdivision plat and what standards can apply?  Can the local government require streets and infrastructure?  And what can local governments do with performance guarantees?  A comprehensive resource now is available to answer these and other questions of land subdivision regulation. Read on for the details.

    Read more »

  • Access to Confidential Client Records by Social Services Governing Boards

    Authored by: on Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

    Child abuse investigations and case files. Applications for Medicaid, child care subsidies, and cash assistance. Financial records related to exploitation of disabled adults. These are only a few examples of the types of records maintained by county departments of social services. These records obviously contain very sensitive information and, as a result, are protected by numerous federal and state confidentiality laws. Social services directors, social workers, attorneys, and others involved with providing assistance to individuals all need access to this information in order to do their work and the laws clearly authorize them to have it. But what about the agency’s governing board?  Does the law authorize board members to have access to identifiable information contained in these sensitive records?  This post explores the relevant laws and highlights particularly restrictive provisions that apply in two areas: child protective services and public assistance.

    Read more »