NCACC reviews state issues affecting counties

Published 10:36 am Friday, May 6, 2011

Polk County commissioners reviewed current state bills that could harm county tax dollars during a meeting Monday, April 18.
Following is text from the NCACC regarding proposed changes that could affect county jail systems and farmland preservation. See the Wednesday, May 4 Bulletin and upcoming issues for information from the NCACC about other issues.
Residents who want to express an opinion about these issues to state legislators can contact Rep. David Guice by email at or by phone at 919-715-4466; Sen. Tom Apodaca can be reached by email at or by phone at 919-733-5745.
Protect county jail system
Issue: Oppose legislation to shift misdemeanants to county jails.
NCACC policy: The association recognizes that the state and counties are partners in the operation of the criminal justice system and will support policies and laws that contribute to this partnership being an equitable one.
Background: Under current law, misdemeanants sentenced to 90 days or less serve their sentences in county jails. Until 2010, the counties were reimbursed $18.50 per day toward the cost of housing these misdemeanants. The legislature eliminated those funds in the 2010 state budget. The Joint Appropriations Committee on Justice and Public Safety is now considering a plan that would mandate that all misdemeanants serve their sentences at the county level. This would transfer an estimated 1,600 inmates to county jails. This represents a cost shift to the counties of roughly $33 million. Many county jails are already over capacity. Additional state inmates in county detention centers will magnify that problem, and will cause extensive increases in jail medical costs.
Action needed: Commissioners are urged to contact their legislators in opposition to the plan to shift the state’s responsibility for housing of misdemeanants to the counties.
Support conservation of working lands and farmland preservation
Issue: Oppose recommended cuts to the Farmland Preservation Trust. Support legislation to promote and preserve working farmlands by including these lands in the state tourism plan, by retaining the current authority for the present use value system, by maintaining funding for the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust, and by authorizing counties to implement transfer of development rights.
NCACC policy: As North Carolina’s urban centers expand into agriculturally oriented land areas, public policy questions emerge as to the regulation of development patterns. The association believes strongly in flexibility of form and function, and therefore supports local control over land-use decision-making and its impact on the agricultural community. Furthermore, the association supports state policies providing local options and tools as to the preservation of farmland, if they in fact serve the best interest of all counties.
Background: Conservation of working lands becomes ever more important as the state becomes more urban in nature. Funding for the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund was included as one of 36 legislative budget priorities in the State Budget Act last session, and $2 million in annual funding was changed from non-recurring to recurring. To maintain that important presence, significant areas must be maintained in working lands.
Additional appropriations for the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund above 2010 fiscal year funding could be used to work with military bases, training zones and other areas to protect the military presence in North Carolina and to promote local food production on farmland in designated areas. Transfer of Development Rights is another tool that would give counties opportunities to conserve farmland areas and to protect growth areas around military installations. Transfer of Development Rights can be used in ways that fit the needs of the county.
Action needed: Support legislation to maintain funds in the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund. Support legislation authorizing counties to implement Transfer of Development Rights.
Bills related to goal:
• Bill H65, “North Carolina Farmers Freedom Protection Act,” sponsored by Bradley (R49) Halifax, an act protecting the freedom on North Carolina farmers.
• Bill H350, “Clarify Property Tax for Conservation Land,” sponsored by McGrady (R117) Henderson; Starnes (R87) Caldwell; Brubaker (R78) Randolph and Harrison (D57) Guilford, an act to modify the classes of property excluded from the tax base.
• Bill H406, “Voluntary Agriculture Districts,” sponsored by Jordan (R93); Hill (D20); Randleman (R94) and Mobley (D5), an act to provide that land that is engaged in agriculture may qualify for enrollment in a voluntary agricultural district even though it does not qualify for taxation at its present-use value, and to provide that residential lots created on land that is the subject of a conservation agreement must meet municipal zoning and subdivision regulations, and to provide that revocable voluntary agricultural district conservation agreements are not required to be recorded.

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