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League Bulletin

October 30, 2020

WHAT HAPPENED: Most minds were on the big day coming up, with a nearly 56 percent voter turnout in the books already. More than 3.2 million one-stop ballots have been cast in the 2020 General Election, the early voting deadline for which is Oct. 31. But policy was also in the air. For one, a pair of incisive op-eds appeared on the need for adequate broadband access in communities without it.

WHAT IT MEANS: That’s been a major policy goal of the League’s, particularly in the last legislative session. The next one begins just into the new year, Jan. 13, with a membership makeup this election will determine.

ON TAP: Ahead of that, we’ve been accepting suggestions for the legislative policy goals that cities and towns will pursue together when the new legislature convenes. But the deadline is coming right up. Members, submit your goal suggestions in writing via via our online form by Nov. 5

THE SKINNY: Enjoy a brief Bulletin this week. And thank you for your continued involvement.

​The League is still accepting written goal suggestions from North Carolina’s cities and towns for the 2021-22 legislative policy goals planning process, but the deadline is soon. We need your participation to make sure cities' and towns' voices are heard and the issues that matter to you are included in our legislative goals package.  

Cities and towns should submit their goal suggestions in writing via our online form by Nov. 5.

​As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, more pointed calls are going out for better state policy approaches to broadband access. Suzanne Coker Craig, a former Pinetops Town Council member, recounts in this piece published by WRAL’s Techwire how that town became the center of a statewide battle over policy to allow municipal internet networks to expand. Craig noted in the piece that Pinetops only ended up with fast, reliable service because Wilson’s Greenlight service expanded there, and then after large, private provider opposition, a court fight and an inadequate state response, sold the service to a smaller, private West Coast firm. “Across North Carolina, there are dozens of other small towns that are still waiting, still left with a single provider not investing or upgrading their technology, still seeing their economic future slip away, still waiting for state policymakers to begin listening to them and not the big telecoms,” Coker Craig wrote.

Also this week, Cabarrus County Teacher of the Year Emily Wagoner writes for EducationNC – a public education-focused think tank – about how North Carolina requires universal broadband access if all children are to have an opportunity for education success. She writes that teachers have been forced to find alternative ways to communicate with students because of the digital divide. “This situation needs to be treated as the educational crisis that it is,” she said. “When large, incumbent telecommunications providers push against the use of public resources in helping to meet this challenge, they are harming our most precious resource – our children. It is not acceptable.”

​Cities and towns support a strong defined benefit retirement plan for their employees, but the costs of that system have been increasing. We watch closely when meetings occur that contain information that could impact the system. The Local Government Employees Retirement System (LGERS) Board met this week and received detailed information from the system’s actuaries regarding the system’s annual valuation and five-year experience study.

The experience study takes place every five years to determine if the many economic, demographic, and funding method assumptions that are used to examine the system’s value and needs still make sense going forward into the next five years. The LGERS Board will take action on any recommended changes in those assumptions at its meeting scheduled for January 2021. Any changes the board chooses to make to assumptions will not affect employer contribution rates until fiscal year 2022-23.

However, the last planned 1.2 percent increase to the system’s employer contribution rate under the existing Employer Contribution Rate Stabilization Policy (ECRSP) is scheduled for fiscal year 2021-22, so the board will also formally vote on that planned increase at their meeting in January. This planned increase represents more than $80 million in additional money to the system from local employers for fiscal year 2021-22.​