The Pilot Stage of the North Carolina Benchmarking Project emanated from a demand of local government officials who wanted to collect and compare service delivery data across jurisdictions. The Pilot Stage consisted of three phases and covered a time period of four years.

Phase I was initiated in September 1995 and included seven of the state's larger municipalities. Seven service areas were selected for study:

• Residential refuse collection
• Household recycling
• Yard waste/leaf collection
• Police patrol
• Police investigations
• Emergency communications
• Street maintenance and repair

The final performance and cost data report for this phase was published in October 1997 and is available for distribution.

Phase II began in January 1996, with seven large counties participating. Seven areas of service were selected for study during this phase of the project:

• Building inspections
• Environmental inspections
• Emergency medical services
• Jail operations
• Pretrial release
• Foster care
• Abuse and neglect investigations

The final performance and cost data report for this phase was published in August 1998 and is available for distribution.

Phase III was initiated in January 1997 and included fourteen medium-size municipalities and seven medium-size counties. The participating units studied the same areas of service as Phases I and II. The only exception was that Phase III counties did not include jail operations. Two performance and cost data reports were published for this phase: one for the municipalities in March 1999 and the other for the counties in April 1999.

In July 1999, the steering committee and the Institute of Government, decided to continue the project on an annual basis. A full-time director and a full-time coordinator were hired. Final performance and costs reports have been published annually in February since 2000.