Recent Blog Posts

  • Expending Funds After the End of the Fiscal Year

    Authored by: on Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

    It is May 2015 and several of Procrastination Village’s staff members are frantically ordering supplies and equipment to spend down remaining budget appropriations by the end of the 2014-15 fiscal year. As of May 1, the parks and recreation department has $1500 remaining in its budget for supplies. (The village board makes budget appropriations by function code within each department. The total appropriation for parks and recreation department supplies for the year was $10,000.) Department staff members place an order for t-shirts for upcoming soccer leagues totaling $1498.

    Before the order is place, the village’s finance officer, Penny Patrol, performs the statutory preaudit process. See G.S. 159-28(a). She checks to see that (1) there is a budget appropriation in the FY 2014-15 budget ordinance ($10,000 appropriation for supplies), and (2) that sufficient funds will remain to pay the amounts expected to come due this fiscal year ($1500 remaining in the appropriation). The department expects that the t-shirts will be delivered on or before June 1 and that the invoice will be paid before July 1. Penny stamps and signs the preaudit certificate on the order form.

    As it turns out, the order is significantly delayed and the t-shirts do not arrive until mid July 2015. In the meantime, a new fiscal year began on July 1, 2015, and a new budget ordinance (FY 2015-16) took effect. Having fallen on hard economic times, the village board appropriated $0 to the parks and recreation department for supplies in FY 2015-16.

    Can Penny pay the $1498 invoice on August 1, 2015? Read more »

  • How Does North Carolina Law Address Outbreaks of Communicable Disease?

    Authored by: on Monday, September 29th, 2014

    [Update 2: See my October 31 post for information about the law of isolation and quarantine in North Carolina, and for resources for more information about the 2014 Ebola epidemic.]

    [Update: On September 30, the CDC announced that a case of Ebola had been diagnosed in the United States. The CDC’s statement is here. This post initially stated that a State Health Director’s temporary order to report had been issued for enterovirus D68. In fact, the temporary order required reports of middle eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS), not enterovirus. There have been no cases of MERS in North Carolina. The author regrets the error and has corrected the post.]

    Earlier this month, I attended the North Carolina Public Health Association’s annual fall conference and had the opportunity to hear a panel address the 2014 Ebola virus epidemic. The panel featured state epidemiologist Megan Davies and several local health directors who, while focusing on Ebola, spoke about many aspects of core public health infrastructure—including the capacity of North Carolina’s public health system to detect and respond to communicable disease outbreaks. Read more »

  • Tax Collection on Surrendered Property

    Authored by: on Thursday, September 25th, 2014

    What does it mean for local government tax collectors when debtors surrender property in bankruptcy proceedings?

    Great question! Let’s see what the band Cheap Trick has to say on this topic:


    Mommy’s alright, Daddy’s alright, they just seem a little weird,

    Surrender, surrender, but don’t give yourself away, ay, ay, ay

    Hmm. That chorus is catchy but not very helpful. Perhaps we should look to federal bankruptcy law instead of pop music to answer this question.

    Read more »

  • Legal Authority for Peddler Permit Fees

    Authored by: on Monday, September 22nd, 2014

    The General Assembly’s enactment of Session Law 2014-3 will eventually result in the elimination of nearly all local privilege license taxes. (My colleague Chris McLaughlin has blogged about the impact of S.L. 2014-3 on local governments here and here.) School of Government faculty members have received inquiries from local officials worried that S.L. 2014-3 applies to the fees that cities and counties charge for permits issued to peddlers and other itinerant salespeople (“peddler permit fees”). This blog post examines the legal basis for peddler permit fees and explains why S.L. 2014-3 does not curtail the authority of local governments to impose them. Read more »

  • Property Taxes and Non-Profits

    Authored by: on Friday, September 19th, 2014

    The tax status of real and personal property owned or used by charitable non-profit organizations can get complicated when there are multiple private and public entities involved with the property.  Is property exempt if it is owned by a non-profit organization and leased to other non-profits? What if it is leased to a mixture of non- and for-profit organizations? Does it matter if the non-profit organizations are 501(c)(3) certified? What if a government owns the property and leases it to a non-profit?

    This blog attempts to unravel some of these knotty non-profit problems. Read more »

  • How Public Are Law Enforcement Vehicle or Body Camera Videos? (Not Very, in North Carolina.)

    Authored by: on Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

    [Update: Legislation clarifying the status of vehicle and body-worn camera recordings under the North Carolina public records law was enacted in July, 2016. The law is summarized in a blog post here.]

    “We may have reached the point where video technology is producing a full-fledged revolution in policing. That revolution has been crystalized, or at least revealed by, the events in Ferguson. The first element of that revolution is a growing expectation among Americans that any dramatic event that takes place in public will be recorded on video.”

    This statement is from a recent article posted to the ACLU website. The lack of video documentation in the Ferguson shooting has sparked a call (most recently from the White House) for cameras to be a standard requirement for law enforcement in vehicles and on the officers’ bodies. A recent U.S. Department of Justice sponsored report “Implementing a Body Worn Camera Program: Recommendations and Lessons Learned” describes the benefits and challenges of body worn cameras. The report includes specific recommendations for implementation, balancing law enforcement, community, and privacy concerns. An introductory comment in the report observes that “A police department that deploys body-worn cameras is making a statement that it believes the actions of its officers are a matter of public record…” It’s clear that the call for video documentation of police/citizen interactions is very much about transparency, and that the expectation is that videos will be available to the public. As North Carolina cities and counties prepare to respond to the call for transparency, it’s important to consider the limitations that North Carolina law imposes on the release of these types of records. Read more »

  • NC Local Governments, Meet Your New State Partner for Economic Development

    Authored by: on Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

    North Carolina local governments have a new partner in their economic development efforts. Session Law 2014-18 authorizes the North Carolina Department of Commerce to enter into a contract with a nonprofit entity in order to carry out many of the Department’s economic development recruiting and marketing functions for the state. The nonprofit entity has already been incorporated and dubbed the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. In order to assist local governments with understanding their new economic development partner, this post describes the enabling legislation and some of the significant requirements imposed on the entity. Read more »