Recent Blog Posts

  • Periodic Inspections, Permits, and Registration of Residential Rental Property: Changes in 2017

    Authored by: on Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

    Local governments establish residential rental property inspection, permit, and registration (IPR) programs to ensure that residential rental properties within their jurisdictions are maintained in a safe and decent condition. In recent years, the General Assembly has sought to protect code-compliant landlords from what legislators perceived as overly zealous IPR programs. The most recent legislation in this area, Session Law 2016-122, became effective on January 1, 2017, and is explained in Community and Economic Development bulletin #9. This blog post offers some highlights from the new law. CED Bulletin #9 should be consulted for more detail. Read more »

  • What Does It Mean to be Charitable?

    Authored by: on Monday, March 20th, 2017

    Last year I blogged about the increasing willingness of local governments to push back against charitable property tax exemptions for non-profit organizations.  Two recent law review articles demonstrate that this trend continues to gather steam. Although the articles involve different types of non-profits and different types of property, they both focus on the same key property tax exemption question: What does it mean to be “charitable?” Read more »

  • Open Meetings Book: New Edition Now Available

    Authored by: on Friday, March 10th, 2017

    Can the board of county commissioners meet in closed session to discuss the performance of the elected sheriff or register of deeds? The open meetings law allows a public body to meet in closed session to talk about employees. But are these elected officials considered to be employees? The county commissioners have no authority to hire, fire, or discipline them. So what’s the answer? You can find it on page 64 of the new (eighth) edition of Open Meetings and Local Governments in North Carolina: Some Questions and Answersnow available from the School of Government, just in time for Sunshine Week. Read on to learn more about the latest version of this publication, and to see the answer to the question. Read more »

  • Who Gets the Refund?

    Authored by: on Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

    Usually the most difficult question about a refund is whether that refund is lawful.  We’ve talked a bunch about how the Machinery Act limits refunds to taxes levied due to clerical error and illegality (read this and this).  But we haven’t discussed the question that arises after deciding that a refund is lawful: who should get the refund check?

    If the tax payment being refunded was made by the owner of the property and the property hasn’t changed hands, the “who gets the check?” question is easy to answer.  The property owner gets the check.

    But what if the refund is for a prior tax year and the property is now owned by a new party? What if the payment being refunded was made by somebody other than the property owner?   The question of “who gets the check?” suddenly becomes much more difficult.

    Read more »

  • Email as Public Record: Five Things You Should Know [Updated]

    Authored by: on Monday, February 20th, 2017

    This is an update of my January 27th, 2010 blog post on this topic. 

    You probably already know that the definition of public records in our state law is extremely broad, and certainly includes electronic records like email. This means that email is subject to both the public access and records retention aspects of that law. Here’s a list of five other things you should know about email as a public record.  Read more »

  • Local Beer and Wine Privilege License Taxes

    Authored by: on Monday, January 30th, 2017

    Sadly the Panthers are not returning to the Super Bowl this year. Despite Cam’s absence from the big game, much of America will still be watching. And drinking. A lot.

    One frequently cited study suggests that over 325 million gallons of beer will be consumed during the big game.  That seems high, as this Asheville newspaper points out. But regardless of the actual total, we know that beer and wine sales soar during the week before the Super Bowl.

    What does this have to do with local governments?  Taxes.  All of those Super Bowl six-packs purchased in North Carolina were sold by retailers that paid local privilege license taxes on their business activities.  Read more »

  • One Oath or Two? What is THE Oath of Office?

    Authored by: on Friday, January 27th, 2017

    Article VI, Section 7 of the North Carolina Constitution instructs anyone elected or appointed to public office in this state to take and subscribe – that is, swear (or affirm) and sign – the oath prescribed therein before entering upon the duties of the office. A number of statutes echo this requirement. For example, G.S. 153A-26 and 160A-61 collectively direct all county and city officeholders to take and subscribe the constitutional oath. The oath is expressly required by several statutes pertaining to designated local government offices, including those of mayor and councilmember (G.S. 160A-68(b)), police chief and police officer (160A-284), tax assessor (105-295), and tax collector (105-349(g)).

    General Statute 11-7 sets out another oath that, according to the statute, must be taken and subscribed by every person elected or appointed to public office in the state. Despite obvious similarities, the wording of the constitutional and statutory oaths is not identical. This blog post considers whether it is really necessary for incoming officeholders to swear and sign both oaths. It also offers a combined version of the two oaths that incoming officeholders could use. Read more »