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League Bulletin

April 27, 2018

A lack of access to high-speed broadband affects communities of every size in North Carolina, and the League invites you to learn the fundamentals about community-led broadband. Join NCLM Legislative Counsel Erin Wynia on Thursday, May 10, at 10 a.m., for the Community-Led Broadband Basics webinar. The webinar will include highlights of the League’s new broadband report: key terms, explanations of technology, broadband public-private parnterships, the state's legal landscape, and tips on how to bring broadband networks to your community. Register in advance​. Instructions for joining the webinar will be included in your registration confirmation.

The state has recommended that the federal government certify 252 parts of North Carolina as Opportunity Zones, "potentially opening a new source of investment capital for regions of the state that need it the most," said a press release this week from the N.C. Department of Commerce. As noted in recent editions of the League Bulletin,  the Opportunity Zones program came out of this year's sweeping federal tax legislation and is designed to aid distressed communities. The tax law authorizes each state to designate up to 25 percent of its total low-income census tracts as qualified Opportunity Zones. (North Carolina has a little more than 1,000 low-income census tracts.)
Altogether, the 252 areas the state is recommending for Opportunity Zone status represent portions of all 100 counties. They cover more than 1.1 million residents, almost 45,000 families with children in poverty and 50,000-plus businesses, the state says. “We’re optimistic that the Opportunity Zones program will attract new investments for our most distressed rural and urban areas,” said Commerce Secretary Anthony Copeland. “These investments will lead to new jobs, development of more affordable housing, and other economic benefits.” Copeland's department has published detailed background information along with a website dedicated to the topic​.
Don't delay your registration for the League’s first-ever Town & State Dinner, scheduled for May 29 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Raleigh Convention Center. Space is limited for this exclusive advocacy event, providing you the opportunity to be with your legislators in a more intimate environment perfect for networking and strengthening relationships. Join us in celebrating state and local leaders who have worked so hard to advocate for municipalities and their residents. Members will hear the latest policy updates from Gov. Roy Cooper, House Speaker Tim Moore, Attorney General Josh Stein, and fellow leaders. 

This League-sponsored dinner gives you the chance to spend time socializing with your legislator. While the League is inviting legislators, a personal invitation directly from their constituents is valuable. After you register yourself​, be sure to give your legislator a call and personally invite him or her to join you for dinner. The League is extending electronic and printed invitations to legislators directly. Legislators do not need to register; instead they can RSVP directly to Town&​​.​ For this year’s legislative short session, the Town & State Dinner is being held in lieu of Town Hall Day.

​The state’s pension boards voted unanimously on Thursday​ to lower the investment return assumption for the North Carolina Retirement Systems. Their vote lowers it from 7.20 percent to 7 percent.  The Teachers' and State Employees' Retirement System (TSERS) and Local Government Employees' Retirement System (LGERS) Boards discussed how that action would place the assumption more in line with actuarial expectations of what the median 20-year and 30-year returns will be in light of the state’s investment portfolio -- with Treasurer Dale Folwell noting that “lowering this assumption will provide the best opportunity to meet the state's long-term obligations as well as maintain its AAA bond rating.”

The reduction will occur immediately; however, any potential impact of the change on employer contribution rates will be phased in over a three-year period. Municipal employers that participate in LGERS and provide the pension benefit to their employees support the system financially through their employer contributions to ensure the system is well-funded and can support what is owed to employees and retirees. The employer contribution is one of only three sources of pension plan funds -- contributions made by employees, contributions made by employers, and investment gain -- so when a retirement system lowers its expected investment gains, additional funding for the pension system comes from the employer through its contributions.

The boards’ action to lower the investment return assumption will not have an impact on the already approved FY 2018-19 employer contribution rates for local government employers. The LGERS Board voted in January to increase the employer contribution rate to 7.75 percent for general employees and 8.50 percent for law enforcement officers for FY 2018-19, which was in line with the Employer Contribution Rate Stabilization Policy (ECRSP) that the board approved in 2016. Per the policy, LGERS employer contribution rates increase 0.25 percent annually through FY 2020-21. The League continues its support of the ECRSP because it makes employer contribution rates more consistent, provides budgeting certainty to local governments, and supports the financial integrity of the system. Local government employers should receive letters from the state treasurer’s office by next week that will clearly list information regarding their specific FY 2018-19 employer contribution rate, including information about the death benefit contribution portion that isn’t consistent across employers.
In other news,, Council Member Allen Buansi of Chapel Hill was sworn-in to the LGERS Board on Thursday, serving in the capacity of “municipal official” and appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper. A PDF from the treasurer's office includes Information regarding the investment return assumption as presented to the TSERS and LGERS boards. The treasurer's website has all documents from Thursday's meeting. Contact: Sarah Collins​

The results of the League’s Survey on Anticipated COLA & Merit Increases for FY 2018-19 are now available. (This survey, and others, can also be found on the League’s website at The survey asks municipal officials across the state what, if any, cost of living and/or merit increases are currently being proposed in their FY 2018-19 budgets.) The League appreciates everyone who took the time to respond to this year’s survey. If you have any questions about the data, please email

National attention is on Fayetteville after Governing Magazine on T​hursday reported it's "the most innovative city in the country." The magazine cited findings from the newly released annual Equipt to Innovate report, created by Governing in collaboration with Living Cities. The report "assesses municipal governments on a range of metrics -- including data use and strategic planning, racial equity in decisionmaking, and citizen engagement," the Governing article explains. It notes that Fayetteville performed strongly in last year's edition of the report, in which Phoenix, Ariz., won top honors, "but the North Carolina city rose to the top in this year's evaluation." 

“The city of Fayetteville is both thrilled and honored to be recognized this year as the city best equipped in the nation to innovate,” the magazine quotes of Fayetteville City Manager Douglas J. Hewett. “This is a reflection of the work in which the city has engaged over a number of years to utilize operational data to inform decisionmaking and to seek new ways to better respond to resident needs.” Seventy-four cities, including the nation's 10 largest, were part of the survey that led to Fayetteville's designation. "Fayetteville’s use of data and analytics to guide city management and long-term planning stood out, according to Living Cities," Governing reported. "The city’s TRACStat system is an open data portal that collects budget and financial data as well as performance results and makes that information available to the public."​​ Separately, the League's Municipal Equation podcast in early 2017 took a close look at Fayetteville's tech innovations in crime-fighting​.

Six initial partnerships are on deck with Hometown Strong, Gov. Roy Cooper's rural-focused economic improvement program, according to the governor's office. Burke, Edgecombe, Lenoir, Madison, Pasquotank, and Robeson counties will be the first in what coordinators say will bring "local leaders together with officials from across state government to remove barriers, increase communication and identify long-term opportunities and needs." An "action team" of representatives from state cabinet agencies are slated to hold roundtable discussions with these partners, "creating new templates for leveraging the resources of state government to benefit rural North Carolina." Hometown Strong facilitators consulted or coordinated with numerous groups, including the League, ahead of the rollout. More partnerships will be announced, according to a press release. More information is at​.