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Nearly 600 advocate for hometowns at largest Town Hall Day 

Roughly 600 municipal officials and legislators attended Town Hall Day this year. Town Hall Day is the League’s largest legislative event of the year which brings municipal officials, legislators, business owners and members of North Carolina’s communities to Raleigh for a day of legislative advocacy.

This year’s event was the most highly attended Town Hall Day in more than 5 years with more than one-third of the state’s municipalities represented.

“Municipal presence at the General Assembly is key,” League Executive Director Paul Meyer said to a full house at one of the morning’s legislative briefings.

The morning started with these briefings which gave attendees a thorough overview of the issues municipalities are facing at the General Assembly and how their jurisdictions would be affected.  Some of the most discussed topics were privilege license tax, historic rehabilitation and film tax credits and development review protocols.

Several members attended the North Carolina chapter of the American Planning Association’s Great Places recognition event held in conjunction with Town Hall Day in the Legislative building’s press room. Apex, Burnsville, Hendersonville, Morganton, Wilson and Winston-Salem all had representatives present to speak about their Great Place award-winning towns.

After the briefings and recognition event, attendees boarded a shuttle to the General Assembly for one-on-one meetings with their representatives.

“It’s necessary that our municipal officials are present in Raleigh,” said League President and Goldsboro Mayor Al King. “Our job as elected leaders is to represent our citizens and ensure the passing legislation is helpful to them.”

After meetings, they gathered in the Legislative Building’s auditorium for a group question-and-answer session from House and Senate leadership. Rep. Tim Moore and Sen. Bob Rucho addressed attendees. Moore spoke about privilege license tax, transportation and his support of the historic rehabilitation tax credit. He said he attributes most of Raleigh’s success in reinvigorating the Fayetteville Street Mall to historic rehabilitation tax credit.

“It helped the cities. It helped the towns. It brought them back to life,” Moore said. “Instead of pushing a bunch of trees down a few miles away, you were going to reuse properties that were already there. You reduce crime; increase property tax revenue; bring jobs, new businesses and folks back downtown.”

Rucho spoke about the privilege license tax and encouraged municipalities to work with their representatives to find alternative sources of revenue. He said he believes a new tax system would put North Carolina at an advantage for business attraction and retention.

“We want a simple and fair system,” Rucho said. “You can’t keep trying to run on two cylinders in a six cylinder car. We’re trying to make sure North Carolina is operating on all six cylinders.”

Later in the afternoon members had a chance to attend a panel discussion in the North Carolina Museum of History’s Auditorium moderated by Gov. Pat McCrory. The panelists were North Carolina Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata and Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary for Rural Economic Development Dr. Pat Mitchell.

McCrory touched on a few current topics including improved unemployment rankings, choosing not to expand Medicaid, repaying federal debt, becoming more competitive in business retention, municipal control, and the Governor’s budget.

He said he believes the privilege license tax was not well implemented and needed reform, but said before signing the bill he asked House and Senate committee chairs for a verbal agreement that they will reintroduce legislation that will, by working with the League, come to a conclusion on how to fill the gap prior to its sunset next year.

“I feel very strongly that if you are dependent upon that revenue that there ought to be a way to have you make up that revenue,” McCrory said.

Members also had an opportunity to ask questions of the panelists and Governor. Many asked questions about how to be in a better position when applying for Department of Transportation funding and the panel provided suggestions and recommendations on how to be more competitive.

Town Hall Day closed with a reception for legislators and municipal officials to mingle in a relaxed setting in the lobby of the North Carolina Museum of History.