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League Bulletin

July 23, 2021

WHAT HAPPENED: Another soft week overall in legislative activity for cities and towns, and next week might be similar with a number of majority party lawmakers heading to a conference in Utah. 

WHAT IT MEANS: The Senate isn't planning any voting sessions in the new week, and the House isn't either beyond Tuesday. (The conference, of the American Legislative Exchange Council, begins Wednesday.) 

ON TAP: Eyeing the charts. State health officials are seeing quickly elevating coronavirus numbers and hoping for a downtrend with better interest in vaccinations as the Delta variant makes its way around. “North Carolina's key metrics show rapidly increasing levels of virus spread since the emergence of the more infectious Delta variant," says the state's latest weekly status report. “Areas with low vaccination rates have seen the largest increases in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths." Forty North Carolina counties saw their situations worsen in the past week. 

THE SKINNY: It's otherwise a light week, but with news to know. Read on for reports on state transportation project funding, the Census, and redistricting.

N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Prioritization Workgroup met this week to consider plans for the next round of transportation project scores. The Workgroup represents a stakeholder process that makes regular refinements to the data-driven strategic mobility formula that helps guide the prioritization of new transportation projects, a process outlined in the state's nationally recognized Strategic Transportation Investments law. The Workgroup, with robust local-government representation (including both the League and the N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition), received a sobering update from NCDOT staff on the overall status of existing projects already in the approved pipeline. Simply put, the current STI Program (STIP) for such projects lacks funding.

Transportation appropriations and the revenues that support those state and federal appropriations have fallen far short of what is needed. Add to that outdated and poorly developed project estimates, ballooning construction costs and fast-growing costs of needed right-of-way, we now know the current STIP is over-programmed by approximately $5 billion for committed projects between 2024 and 2033 (see table). Given the lack of funding and rising costs, the stakeholder group agreed that moving forward with a new round of project scoring would be ill advised. The Workgroup's recommendations will be presented to the N.C. Board of Transportation in August and is expected to concur with the Workgroup. Contact your metropolitan or rural planning organizations for details on how this might affect projects in your community. 

Bottom line, and as many of our members can say from experience, we need more funding from a modernized and forward-looking federal and state transportation financing system (which has been stagnant for decades) if we are to meet the future transportation needs of our communities, economy and environment.

The Census Bureau will soon release local data from the 2020 Census. In an Aug. 11 online event, beginning at 10:30 a.m., the N.C. Office of State Budget and Management will clarify what to expect in this data release and discuss tools and resources for using the data.

If your city or town has to redistrict because of the census results, this event may be of interest. 

The event also features Kelly Tornow, General Counsel of the State Board of Elections. Ms. Tornow will provide an explanation of the legal considerations and authority for redistricting, as well as recent legislation impacting local government redistricting.

​The League's newest Revenue Report is now published! This document covers fiscal year 2020-21 third quarter (January – March).

The League's quarterly revenue reports provide general economic updates and a summary of tax revenues collected by the state that are returned to local governments throughout the year. These include a portion of local option sales and use taxes, utility sales taxes (on electricity, piped natural gas, telecommunications, and local video programming), beer and wine excise tax, and solid waste disposal tax.