Recent Blog Posts

  • The Tortoise, the Hare, and Demolition in Historic Districts

    Authored by: on Monday, November 21st, 2016

    A few blocks from downtown in the town’s historic district sit two houses built in the early twentieth century: the Hare House and the Tortoise House. The houses retain their historic elements and contribute to the architectural character of the neighborhood. While the houses have seen better days, they are not falling in.  At least not yet.  The houses are on the path toward demolition, just at different speeds. For the Hare House, the owner wants to tear the thing down. Now.  As for the Tortoise House, the years without maintenance are starting to show.  The slow process of demolition by neglect has begun, and without some maintenance soon it will be beyond repair.

    What, if anything, can the town do to avoid the demolition of these historic resources?  Can the town slow down the speedy demolition of the Hare House? And can the town speed up maintenance to avoid the slow-motion demolition of the Tortoise House?

    This blog explores two options under the authority for local historic preservation: (1) delayed certificates of appropriateness for demolition and (2) ordinances to address demolition by neglect.  Read more »

  • Pushing Back on Non-Profit Property Tax Exemptions

    Authored by: on Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

    $19 billion.  That’s the rough market value of exempt property owned by non-profit educational institutions and charitable hospitals throughout North Carolina, according to the most recent figures from the N.C. Department of Revenue.

    Under G.S. 105-278.4 and G.S. 105-278.8, property owned by private schools, colleges and universities or by charitable hospitals is exempt from property taxes so long as that property is used for an exempt purpose.

    Using average tax rates, the educational and charitable hospital exemptions cost counties somewhere around $125 million in property tax revenue annually.  Toss in at least another $100 million or so for city property taxes and we’re looking at a maybe quarter of a billion dollars in local government revenue eliminated each year by those two exemptions. Read more »

  • The Peaceful and Orderly Transfer of Power: Answers to Questions About Organizational Meetings and Swearing In New Board Members

    Authored by: on Monday, November 14th, 2016

    After each county and city election there is a transition period during which newly-elected officers have not yet been installed and outgoing officers are still in power. This blog post answers questions about what happens during this transitional period, when new officers are sworn in, and what business takes place at the organizational meeting. Read more »

  • Animal Services Records: Common Threads for Different Programs

    Authored by: on Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

    Animal services programs have a variety of local government homes – they may be in the local health department, law enforcement agency, city or county administration, or a standalone department. There are also intergovernmental programs, such as a county agreeing to administer some or all of a municipality’s animal services program, and collaborations with the nonprofit community. Because these programs have so many different organizational homes and administrative structures, I suspect that they have adopted a wide range of records management practices. There should, however, be some common threads that tie these records practices back to the law. This post highlights some of the laws and policies that should apply to all of the programs, wherever they are housed. Read more »

  • Taxes on Transferred Personal Property

    Authored by: on Thursday, October 20th, 2016

    If I sell you my house, you need to worry about old property taxes on that house.  If those taxes aren’t paid, you will become personally responsible for them. Your wages, bank accounts and cars may become targets of enforced collections actions by the county.

    But if I sell you my boat, you don’t need to worry about old property taxes on that boat.  You will never be personally responsible for those taxes.

    That’s because G.S. 105-365.1 creates different rules for personal responsibility based on the type of property—real or personal—involved.  (By “personal responsibility,” I mean being subject to attachment and garnishment or levy and sale.)

    For real property, the owner on the delinquency date (January 6) and all subsequent owners are personally responsible for delinquent property taxes.  (See this blog post for more).  New owners of real property are on the hook for old taxes.

    But for personal property, it’s the listing taxpayer and only the listing taxpayer that can be held personally responsible for old taxes.  New owners are never on the hook for old taxes.

    Well, almost never.  G.S. 105-366 creates a few exceptions to the general rule. Read more »

  • Local State of Emergency Declarations – Some FAQs

    Authored by: on Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

    Hurricane Matthew is bearing down on North Carolina’s coast.  State and local officials are preparing for significant impacts.  The Governor has issued a state of emergency declaration for much of central and eastern North Carolina.  Local officials wonder whether they should issue local declarations within their own jurisdictions.  Can they?  Should they?  If so, how do they?

    This post answers some frequently asked questions about the authority of cities and counties to issue local state of emergency declarations.  For those who might be looking for a quick and easy resource, the School of Government has template state of emergency declarations available on our emergency management website at under “Sample Documents.”

    Read more »

  • UPDATED: Blood Exposures and NC Communicable Disease Law

    Authored by: on Thursday, September 29th, 2016

    What happens when a person has an accidental exposure to someone else’s blood? This is one of my most frequently asked questions. I wrote about it in 2010, but it is time for an update. Since my original post, the bloodborne pathogen rules have been expanded to include hepatitis C virus, and I’ve encountered some new questions that I’d like to address. It’s probably also time to drop the dated reference to vampire literature, as popular culture seems to have moved on to zombies.

    This post retains the question and answer format of the first post, with a few new questions and some expanded answers. Section 1 describes what bloodborne pathogens are and the two sets of rules that address them. Section 2 provides an introduction to the rules that address occupational exposures. Section 3 goes into more detail about the rules that address non-occupational exposures.

    Read more »