With ARP, an Opportunity, a Responsibility, and a Role Well Played

Rose Vaughn Williams, NCLM Executive Director

Through the many changes in local governments—budget cycles and news cycles, projects, and programs—one topic has remained front and center for the better part of two years: the American Rescue Plan.

Communications from the League reflect that sentiment. ARP has been a key piece of just about everything we’ve put out since early 2021, from events to emails. This magazine issue is no different. It is yet more outreach dedicated to a subject that plays such a central role in our municipalities, in ways both obvious and discreet.

Let’s begin with the obvious. The American Rescue Plan is a rarity—a program unprecedented and unlikely to happen again. Every city and town in North Carolina received money directly to serve their community, to invest in transformational infrastructure improvements, and to recover wholesale from the COVID-19 pandemic. The scale of the program cannot be overestimated. And as a post-pandemic lifeline and a forward-looking leg up, the opportunities it has presented our communities are staggering.

From those opportunities, however, there is a tremendous amount of responsibility. This is the more hidden role of the American Rescue Plan. How cities spend this money will have far-reaching implications. Even with the immense investment already made by federal and state lawmakers, there remains a significant need in North Carolina, especially as it relates to water and wastewater infrastructure. More assistance will be needed down the road. If we utilize these American Rescue Plan funds prudently, we will be loudly broadcasting a fact that we at the League know well: when cities get the resources they need, they get the job done.

In other words, you, as local leaders, are on center stage. And thus far, you are playing the role beautifully.

This issue is dedicated to the work taking place through American Rescue Plan funds, both in your communities and at the League itself. Along with the direct funds received by our towns, the League also received funds from state leaders to help assist local governments in best using their allocations. Throughout these pages, you will read about the robust staff and services we have built. You will learn about our in-field representatives, who touch every corner of the state—who are ever-ready to take on any question or concern that may arise in any of our 540-plus municipalities. And you will learn about our Municipal Accounting Services program, which has already begun to implement modern budgeting systems in our smaller towns.

I could not be prouder of our local governments. You understand your communities, engage your citizens, and know intimately where and how best to spend these funds, not just to get the best bang for your buck, but to also address the most pressing needs of the people you serve. Throughout the state, this has been the case. Whether it is infrastructure, downtown improvements, community development, or any other number of spending categories, North Carolina is far better off for the work done by our dedicated local leaders.

The League is here to keep this momentum going. As you read about the many offerings of the ARP Service Line in this issue, and you think a particular service could help your community, please reach out. From planning assistance to legal guidance to accounting help, we are prepared to support you.

Our cities and towns are the toast of the state, and our state is the toast of the nation. You—our local leaders—are the reason why. This past year has been yet another display of the greatness of our towns, and I look forward to our continued achievement in 2024.