A bill that would provide an additional retirement benefit to firefighters and rescue squad workers – without providing any state funding to local governments to pay for it – was removed from the House floor and sent back to committee this week. The move likely means that the expansion of the “special separation allowance,” which would have created an unfunded mandate for some cities exceeding $1 million annually, will not pass this legislative session. According to General Assembly staff, the estimated cost to provide this benefit, over time, to all current local government employees who would be eligible is roughly $300 million. The legislative action on SB 153 Military Retiree State Income Tax Relief, which included the separation allowance language, followed steps by the League calling members' attention to the provision and issuing a news release pointing out that the League has always opposed unfunded mandates that place more pressure on local property tax bases and local taxpayers. Meanwhile, the League has historically and continues to fight to preserve a defined-benefit retirement plan – even as such plans have come under attack and even been repealed in other states – which benefits all municipal employees and helps attract quality employees to local government positions. The League thanks legislators for hearing and considering our concerns regarding SB 153.
Some rural municipalities are the latest beneficiaries of the Rural ReadySites program, which recently approved 10 grant requests from local governments totaling more than $14 million. The N.C. Department of Commerce this week announced that Wadesboro, Middlesex and Reidsville were among recipients of funds that they will put toward water or sewer improvements. "Companies are looking for sites that have the infrastructure they need to get to work growing their business right away," Commerce Secretary Anthony M. Copeland said in a news release with full details about the awards and funding source. "Our rural communities often need additional funding to prepare sites for development, and this program is a step toward meeting that need." Separately this week, the Department of Commerce announced the Rural Infrastructure Authority's approval of 23 other grant requests totaling $17 million following commitments to create hundreds of local jobs and with more than $117 million in private investment.