Lake Norman & Mooresville

Cornelius prepares its 2016 budget

Jim Duke
Jim Duke

Cornelius officials are proposing a town budget that increases spending by more than 7 percent to fund road improvements, greenways and park projects, among other capital expenditures, but would keep the tax rate unchanged.

The town’s general fund budget for fiscal 2016, which starts July 1, would total $21.7 million and increase spending by about $1.5 million, or 7.4 percent, from fiscal 2015.

Commissioner Jim Duke said the proposed 2016 budget includes lot of capital projects set to begin this year and next.

“The budget’s as tight as it’s ever been, and we’re trying to do a whole lot with very little,” he said. “We’re leveraging grants for many of the projects so we get the biggest bang for the tax buck; some of them are part of the bond programs that were passed in 2013, and others are projects we got started last year.”

Duke said he expects the board to adopt the budget unanimously in June.

Growth will help keep future tax increases low, or at bay, Duke said. A 24-cent tax rate will generate roughly $12 million in tax revenue.

If the budget is adopted, it would be the fourth consecutive year that the town’s tax rate is 24 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

That’s the lowest tax rate in Mecklenburg County and among the lowest in the state among towns with a population greater than 20,000, according to public tax records.

Town Manager Anthony Roberts will recommend the budget on May 4, and the town will hold a public hearing on the budget May 18, but Board of Commissioners will hold that public hearing open into June to allow for additional public comment. The board must adopt a budget, and a tax rate, by June 30.

Jackie Huffman, the town’s finance director, said this year’s budget is capital intensive.

Bonds will help fund intersection improvements at Bailey Road and N.C. 115 and Gem and Hickory streets, connections to Smithville Park and construction of multiple greenways, as well as the development of the Cornelius Elementary School park and restroom renovations at area parks.

Additional capital items include improvements at the diverging diamond, sidewalk connections and funding for new staff and equipment for police, fire and the PARC department. The town also will make repairs to a fire station.

The town’s major initiatives this fiscal year, Huffman said, include funding the debt service on bonds, adding the lake patrol division to the Police Department and managing operations of new park facilities, which includes the new phase of Robbins Park and the creation of the Smithville Splash Pad.

Voters a couple years ago authorized $20.4 million in bonds, and the first will be issued for roughly $9.2 million in June. The remaining $11.2 million will expire in November 2020 but the town could get an extension for as late as November 2023.

It appears the uncertainty surrounding the state-mandated property tax revaluation for Mecklenburg County is coming to an end.

“The information we have from Mecklenburg County suggests that the final remaining (mandated) refunds will occur in fiscal 2016,” Huffman said. “Completion of those refunds will provide some stability in our tax base.

Johnson: 704-358-5089

Learn more:

The budget workshop agenda from the March 17 meeting, available online, provides detailed estimates for revenue, expenditures and capital investments for fiscal 2016’s general fund. Details: http://bit.ly/Cornelius2016proposedbudget.

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