Recent Blog Posts

  • The Axe Finally Falls on Local Privilege License Taxes

    Authored by: on Friday, May 30th, 2014

    Well, that took forever. But it sure happened quickly.

    Although this observation sounds like something Yogi Berra might have uttered, it accurately describes the General Assembly’s elimination of local privilege license taxes yesterday.  After debating this move for years, once it made up its mind to act the legislature took only two weeks to go from a bill introduction to the governor’s signature.

    The final version of the bill, S.L. 2014-3, does much more than eliminate local privilege license taxes.  For one, it allows Moore County to levy occupancy taxes on private houses rented out through realtors for the men’s and women’s U.S. Opens at Pinehurst starting next week. (Some of which were listed at incredibly high rate: $65,000 for two weeks in a three-bedroom house?!?)  I’ll be writing on some of those other provisions in the weeks to come.

    But today I want to focus on the privilege license tax provisions because some cities and towns have already started billing businesses for the 2014 tax year.  Here is a summary of the law’s impact and a short Q&A. Read more »

  • Variance Standards: What is hardship? And when is it unnecessary?

    Authored by: on Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

    Generally, development regulations like zoning and subdivision standards apply equally to all properties. But sometimes a particular property is unfairly burdened by the general rules, creating an unnecessary hardship for the owner. The general statutes authorize the local board of adjustment to grant a variance from the rules in those limited circumstances. But what is an unnecessary hardship? Recent amendments to the state statute clarify what can (and what can’t) qualify as unnecessary hardship. This blog explores those new standards.

    Read more »

  • Disbursing Public Funds

    Authored by: on Friday, May 23rd, 2014

    G.S. 159-28 is often referred to as the “preaudit statute,” but it actually prescribes two distinct legal processes—the preaudit process and the disbursement process. The statute envisions that most local government expenditures will be subject to both processes. As discussed in previous posts (see here, here, and here), the preaudit process (found in G.S. 159-28(a)) is triggered and performed when a local government or public authority (collectively, local unit) incurs an obligation to pay money, such as when it orders goods, enters into a service contract, hires an employee, or executes a credit card transaction. The disbursement process (found in G.S. 159-28(b) & (d)), on the other hand, must be performed before a local unit actually pays out the funds. Thus, the law requires that a local unit perform the disbursement process when it receives an invoice, bill, or other claim for monetary payment. This blog post describes the disbursement process and other related requirements for expending public funds. Read more »

  • Recording Closed Sessions

    Authored by: on Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

    North Carolina’s open meetings law allows any person to “photograph, film, tape-record, or otherwise reproduce any part of a meeting required to be open.” G.S.143-318.14(a) (emphasis added). What about meetings that are not required to be open? Does a person attending a closed session have a right to record it? If the public body decides to record the meeting, what is the status of that recording and how long must it be retained? This blog post addresses these and other related questions about recording closed sessions.

    Read more »

  • Did the General Assembly Repeal City Privilege License Tax Authority Last Year?

    Authored by: on Monday, May 19th, 2014

    Yes. But they didn’t mean to. And the repeal doesn’t affect privilege license taxes levied for the current fiscal year. (We think.) And they will (probably) fix the mistake this session. At the same time they might drastically change (in other words, limit) cities’ authority to levy these taxes. Or they might do nothing and let the (mistaken) repeal stand.

    Does that all makes sense? If not, join the club. It’s been a confusing few months for folks who work in the area of municipal privilege license taxes. Here’s my best effort to explain where we are now, how we got here, and where we might go next.  Read more »

  • Stay What? Placing Development on Hold While Appeals Are Pending

    Authored by: on Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

    Controversy regarding a new house in a Raleigh historic district has garnered national and even international attention.  Work on the house came to an abrupt halt when permits for it were revoked.  A key element of the controversy – sparking outrage from the casual observer — is the fairness of having work on a nearly complete house halted.  A number of press reports characterized this as the board of adjustment (BOA) yanking the proverbial regulatory rug from underneath the owner.

    The substantive question of whether this particular house design is appropriate for the site and procedural issues about the BOA review are now before the courts.  But what about the fairness of halting work so late in the construction process, after so much money has been sunk into the house?

    Should construction on the house have been stopped immediately upon the appeal being filed?  Is the choice left to the owner to proceed after an appeal has been made?  Do the neighbors or the city have a role in making that choice?  Who bears the risks and costs of proceeding or halting development?  In short, how and when is development work or enforcement put on hold pending an appeal? Read more »

  • New Property Tax Deferral Aimed at Economic Development Properties

    Authored by: on Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

    [UPDATE:  S.L. 2014-39 amended the site infrastructure deferral by eliminating the requriement that the property have previously been participating in the present use value deferral program for farmland and by changing the deferral calculation.  The updated post below reflects these changes.]

    This past year witnessed several milestones for deferred property taxes.  We celebrated the 40th birthday of the first deferred tax program, the present-use value deferral aimed at farmland and forestland that debuted in 1973 (G.S. 105-277.4).  We welcomed the newest member of the family, the “site infrastructure” deferral aimed at land that might be ripe for economic development (G.S. 105-277.15A; more on this new arrival below).  And we said goodbye to the home builders’ inventory deferral (G.S. 105-277.1D), which sunset in 2013.  Read more »