Triangle Politics A weekly look at the local political scene

Local governments worry about loss of revenue

March 29, 2013 

As local governments met with state government officials for “Town Hall Day” Wednesday in Raleigh, many municipalities expressed concern over proposed legislation that could cut out about 4 percent of their tax revenues.

Bills that would cut tax revenue – including local taxes – are designed to be revenue neutral on the state level, but Garner town manager Hardin Watkins said it remains unclear whether an effort will be made to make specific municipalities whole from lost revenue.

He said Garner could lose more than $1 million alone from the ending of a franchise tax for utilities. Those fees are paid by power companies to municipalities such as Garner for use of town-owned rights-of-way.

“We derive a huge chunk for utility franchise fees,” Watkins said.

In addition, cuts in areas such as the beer and wine tax (about $125,000 to Garner annually, Watkins said) and a ban on collecting a business license tax ($66,000) would further cut into the budget.

Replacements for such revenue losses have been promised but are vague, according to the North Carolina League of Municipalities.

Tax reform represents one of the legislature’s primary goals. The 14 sponsors of S.B. 394 – including nine Republicans – believe the state’s tax code requires drastic change.

Cary land deal on hold

The town of Cary isn’t sold on a plan to put up to 400 homes and a mixed-use center on state-owned land adjoining WakeMed Soccer Park.

If the plan is approved, Lennar Carolinas would pay the state $15 million for about 92 acres near Cary Towne Center. The tightly packed residential, commercial and hotel project would open for business by 2018.

The proposal may be in trouble, though. It polarized the Cary Town Council at a Thursday meeting, with some members saying the residential infusion would revitalize central Cary and others arguing the town should hold out for a larger mixed-use center with other offices and “institutional uses.”

Ultimately, the council voted to table the issue for a month, giving the developer and the state time to rework the plan.

‘Aesthetic’ bill opposition

Durham’s InterNeighborhood Council has gone on record against a bill in the General Assembly that curtails local governments’ authority to set design standards for residential construction.

“The North Carolina General Assembly should leave inviolate the authority of local communities to decide for themselves those land use regulatory measures best suited to shape development and protect the public health, safety and welfare,” concludes a resolution the council’s executive committee adopted last week.

The bill, “Zoning/Design and Aesthetic Controls,” is “the top priority of the N.C. Home Builders Association,” said Ben Hitchings, president of the American Planning Association’s North Carolina chapter. It passed the state House, 98-18. Durham state Sen. Mike Woodard told InterNeighborhood Council delegates he expects it to pass in the Senate.

“This going to sail through, and, frankly, I’d be surprised if it got more than 10 votes against it,” Woodard said.

Political trail

• Woodard is holding a town hall meeting in Durham at 7 p.m. Thursday at the North Regional Library, 221 Milton Road. He will discuss legislation before the General Assembly and the proposed state budget. All interested residents are encouraged to attend.

• The Republican Women of Cary and Southwestern Wake will hold its monthly meeting Thursday at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary. Cost for lunch is $15. Check-in and social time is at 11:30 a.m., with lunch at noon. The program will feature Dr. Greg Brannon, U.S. Senate candidate. RSVP to Lisa at 919-303-8870.

Compiled by state writers Kyle Jahner, Andrew Kenney and Jim Wise.

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