Absentee Ballot

an official list of candidates on which voters can indicate their votes without going to an official polling place

Advisory Board

a group of residents appointed to provide oversight and advice to a department or to consider a project or issue (also known as an advisory committee or commission)

Advisory Committee

a group of residents appointed to provide oversight and advice to a department or to consider a project or issue (also known as an advisory board)


a person living in a country where he or she is not a citizen


to set aside money for a specific purpose


the legal process of extending municipal boundaries and adding territory to a city or town


authorizing expenditure of government funds to a particular purpose or use

Assessed Value

the value assigned to property by government to establish its worth for tax purposes


evaluate, measure, or judge something


(also known as special purpose local government) unit of local government created by the General Assembly to deliver a specific service, usually with territorial boundaries larger than a single jurisdiction and often encompassing several jurisdictions


the list of candidates on which people cast their votes


a group of people responsible for the governance of an enterprise

Board Of Adjustment

quasi-judicial body that hears requests for exceptions to zoning ordinance

Board of Elections

Bi-partisan board tasked with overseeing elections, voter registration, and maintaining voting records


a contract to repay borrowed money with interest at a specific time in the future


a plan for raising and spending money

Business Development Corporation

a group of people legally organized as a corporation to encourage economic development

Capital Improvements

acquiring, expanding, or substantively improving major tangible items like land, buildings, or expensive equipment

Chamber of Commerce

a group of business people formed to promote business interests in the community


the document defining how a city or town is to be governed and giving it legal authority to act as a local government


an official summons to appear before a court to answer a charge of violating a government regulation


a person who has full rights in a country because he or she was born there or has been given those rights by the country

Citizens Academy

civic education program facilitated by local government(s) for the purpose of informing and building positive relationships with residents and encouraging civic engagement

Civic Engagement

learning how and working to make a positive difference in the civic life of your community through political and nonpolitical efforts

Civic Responsibility

responsibilities or obligations association with being a citizen, such as voting and obeying laws

Civil Penalty

fine or other financial penalty imposed by courts as restitution for being found guilty of a violation of law

Clerk of Superior Court

a state official elected in each N.C. county in a partisan election to a four-year term; responsible for all clerical and record-keeping functions of the superior court and district court in addition to various other responsibilities

Coastal Plain

the eastern region of North Carolina, extending approximately 150 miles inland from the coast; the western border of the regional is usually defined as the western boundaries of Northampton, Halifax, Nash, Johnston, Harnett, Hoke, and Scotland counties (41 counties in all)


a grouping of individuals and families connected through some shared characteristic; people who live in the same government jurisdiction


decayed material that is used as fertilizer

Consolidated Human Services Agency

as provided under a 2012 law, an agency created by counties in North Carolina that is a combination of public health and social services agencies


a legally binding agreement made between two or more people or organizations


a group of persons formed by law to act as a single body

Council-Manager Plan

an arrangement in some local governments in which the elected legislature hires a professional executive to direct government activities


a restriction on the use of property, land, money, and so forth agreed upon by two parties


an act that is forbidden by law; an offense against all of the people of the state, not just the victim of the act

Debt Service Payments

payments of principal and interest on a loan


legal document regarding the ownership of property


the process by which the salt is taken out of water


a person or business that builds houses or prepares land for building


a person who gives emergency workers information so that those workers can respond to emergencies

Economic Development

activities to create new jobs and additional sales and other business

Economic Development Commission

a committee created to advise and assist local governments in economic development efforts; sometimes set up as a nonprofit organization while other times they serve in an advisory capacity to government departments


money spent

Extraterritorial Land Use Planning Jurisdiction

the area outside city limits over which a city has authority for planning and regulating use of the land (often abbreviated as ETJ)


showing partiality; favoring someone over others

Federal System

the division of authority between national and state governments

Fiscal Year

the 12-month period used by the government for record keeping, budgeting, taxing, and other aspects of financial management

Food Stamps

a program to help people with financial need buy food; vouchers to be used like money for purchasing food; federal program, but administered by county departments of social services in North Carolina

Fund Balance

money a government has not spent at the end of the fiscal year

Gasoline Tax

a per gallon tax placed on purchases of gasoline

General Assembly

North Carolina’s state legislature, which consists of a House of Representatives of 120 members and a Senate of 50 members

General Election

a regularly held election for public offices

General obligation (G.O.) bond

a loan that a government agrees to repay using tax money, even if the tax rate must be raised


(Geographic Information Systems) software that combines layers of geographic data for the purpose of managing, analyzing, and presenting it


money given by state or federal government to local governments to fund local projects

Green Box Site

an area in which is located a large receptacle for trash, usually painted green, that often emits a foul odor if solid waste is not regularly collected


public area with grass, trees, or other vegetation set apart for recreational purposes, or simply to beautify the community, in otherwise urbanized areas.

Ground Water

water that collects underground

Homeowners' Association (HOA)

a group of residential properties organized into a neighborhood by a real estate developer and maintained as a private, nonprofit corporation

Human Relations Commission

an advisory group of resident volunteers, appointed by a city or county governing board, whose mission is to promote human relations within a community; these efforts include promoting human rights, equal opportunities, mutual respect, and understanding within a given community


a person who comes to live in a country from another country


a material that pollutes

Incident Report

a report that a police officer writes describing a crime or other problem situation


the safe burning of wastes


to receive a state charter, officially recognizing the government of a municipality

Industrial Site

property set aside for industrial uses such as manufacturing and distribution facilities


the rate of increase of commonly purchased goods, indicating declining purchasing power of currency over time


facilities, services, and installations needed for the functioning of a community, such as streets, water lines, and public buildings like schools and community centers


a way in which the citizens propose laws by gathering voter signatures on a petition; only a few cities and no counties in North Carolina have provisions for initiatives


a charge for borrowed money that the borrower agrees to pay the lender

Interest Rate

a percentage of the amount borrowed that the borrower agrees to pay to the lender as a charge for use of the lender’s money

Intergovernmental Assistance

money given to local governments by state and federal governments to help meet specific needs


the right to use legal authority, or the territory over which a government can use its authority

Land Use Plan

a document created to guide future land use decisions in a community, including a long-term vision and goals and guidelines for future development and other public investments (also known as a comprehensive plan)


a site built into or on top of the ground in which trash is stored for permanent disposal and isolated from the surrounding environment (groundwater, air, rain); also known as sanitary landfill


to impose a tax by law

Local Act

a state law that applies to only those local governments specified in the law


a legal order by which one government requires actions by another government

Mandated Service

a program which local governments must provide because of requirements from state or federal government


a program designed to pay for medical care for people in financial need; federal program, but administered by county departments of social services in North Carolina

Merit System

hiring or promoting based on a person’s qualifications, ability, and performance

Mountain Counties

the western region of North Carolina, extending eastward from the Tennessee border to the eastern boundaries of Alleghany, Wilkes, Caldwell, Burke, and Rutherford counties; includes 23 counties


material spread around plants that prevents the growth of weeds and protects the soil from drying out


a city, town, or village that has an organized government with authority to make laws, provide services, and collect and spend taxes and other public funds

Mutual Aid Agreement

commitment by local governments to assist each other in times of need


hiring or giving favorable treatment to someone based on kinship


not affiliated with a political party

Open Meetings Law

a state law (G.S. 143-318) requiring most meetings of local governments to be held with advanced notice and open to the public


one who is against something

Optional Service

a program that a government decides to provide to meet the needs or requests of its residents


a directive from a local governing board instructing action by the government


a law, usually of a city or county


involving political parties


hiring or giving favorable treatment to an employee because he or she is a member of one’s political party

Per Capita

by or for each person

Personal Property

tangible property that is not part of land our buildings, such as cars, boats, and expensive business equipment


the people who work for a government, company, or other organization


a request for government action signed by a number of voters who support the same request

Piedmont Counties

the central region of North Carolina including Surry, Yadkin, Alexander, Catawba, and Cleveland counties on the west to Warren, Franklin, Wake, Chatham, Lee, Moore, and Richmond counties on the east; includes 36 counties

Political Party

an association of voters with broad common interests who want to influence or control decision making in government by electing the party’s candidates to public office

Poll Tax

tax people had to pay in order to be allowed to vote

Polling Place

an official place for voting


anything that harms the quality of air, water, or other materials it mixes with


the total number of people living in a designated area such as a city or county

Powell Bill

a North Carolina state law that allocates part of the state’s gasoline tax to municipal governments to build and repair city streets


a geographic area that contains a specific number of voters


to take the place of or take precedence over

Primary Election

an election in which voters select candidates for a general election


the amount of money borrowed


government purchase of a service from a business instead of producing the service itself

Property Tax

a tax based on a portion of the assessed value of real (buildings and land) or personal (all other tangible) property

Property Tax Base

the total assessed value of all taxable property

Property Tax Rate

a percentage of the assessed value of property that determines how much tax is due for that property


one who is in favor of something


a suggestion put forward for consideration or approval

Public Comment Period

a time period set aside in public meetings of government bodies where residents can speak to the governing body and contribute to the public record; legally required for local government governing boards in North Carolina

Public Hearing

a meeting designed for government officials to receive public comment on a specific issue before decisions are made; in some cases, such as passing a budget, a public hearing is legally required

Public Records Law

a state law (G.S. 132) declaring that most government records (emails, documents, maps, and so forth) belong to the people and must be freely available and accessible to the public

Public Utility

an organization (such as a city or county department or private provider) that builds, maintains, and operates infrastructure (and its associated system) for public services like gas, electricity, water, and sewage


controlled distribution of scarce resources

Real Property

land and buildings, and improvements to either


a person who knows how well someone did on a previous job or about that person’s other qualifications for a job


a way for citizens to vote on state or local government decisions; an election in which citizens vote directly on a public policy question

Register of Deeds

an elected county office tasked with managing public records such as property records, birth and death certificates, and marriage licenses


a person who lives in a designated area such as a city or county


an adopted policy of a local governing board expressing its sentiments on a particular issue


the income that a government collects for public use

Revenue Bond

a specific type of government bond where payback of the debt comes from revenues of the project the borrowed money paid for

Revenue Estimate

estimations of future revenue used for planning and budgeting future expenditures


of or relating to the countryside; area where fewer people live

Sales Tax

tax levied on a product at the time of sale

Septic Tank

a container in which wastes are broken down by bacteria


elected county official responsible for law enforcement, jails and courtroom security


the solid material separated from sewage

Special Purpose Local Government

(also known as public authority) unit of local government created by the General Assembly to deliver a specific service, usually with territorial boundaries larger than a single jurisdiction and often encompassing several jurisdictions

Stormwater Management

efforts to reduce runoff of rainwater or melted snow into streets, yards, and other locations in order to protect or improve water quality; an important environmental service of many local governments that contributes to community well being

Subdivision Regulation

rules for dividing land for development


support financially


a payment which reduces the cost to the user


to ask a court to act against a person or organization to prevent or pay for damage by that person or organization

Surface Water

all waters on the surface of the Earth found in rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and so on

Tax Base

total amount of assets or income that can be taxed

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

federal government program of support for families in need but administered by counties in North Carolina; provides small payments to cover basic living expenses and assistance to help adults find and keep jobs

Tipping Fee

a charge imposed on a user based on how much solid waste they bring for disposal at a landfill

Total Assessed Value

the sum of the assessed value of all the property a city or county can tax


the part of a county outside the cities and towns in that county


area where people live close together; most are incorporated as municipalities

User Fee

a charge levied to use a public service


permission to do something different from what is allowed by current regulations

Visitor’s Bureau

organizations—usually nonprofit—that promote or market specific destinations; usually funded primarily by local governments through tourism-related tax revenues (lodging and restaurant taxes)


people who donate their time and effort


a section of a jurisdiction for voting, representative, or administrative purposes


an area that drains water into a stream or lake


rules designating different areas of land for different uses


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