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Cornelius News

Local sales tax option OK’d by Town Board

March 5. By Dave Vieser. Is there an additional sales tax in Cornelius’ future? The town board raised that possibility Monday evening when they passed by a 4-1 margin a resolution in support of state legislation authorizing them to impose an additional 1/2 cent sales tax. The proceeds would be used solely for road construction and the whole concept would be subject to approval by town voters.

Currently, the combined sales tax rate for Cornelius, NC is 7.25 percent. This is the total of statewide sales tax (4.75 percent) and countywide sales tax  (2 percent), along with a 1/2 cent tax used for transit purposes. If the new sales tax was to be approved and other rates remained, the new rate would be 7.75 percent.

“This is to preserve an option for levying a local sales tax for road improvements at some point in the future,” said Town Board Member Kurt Naas. “We have looked at doing a Pennies for Progress type of program here for quite some time, and this grants the authority- subject to a voter referendum- to have such a program.”


The Pennies for Progress Programs were initiated in South Carolina by York County to provide residents with an additional means of funding safer and more efficient roadway system. Cornelius envisions a similar program whereby projects are chosen by a Sales Tax Commission that represent their residents.

In the resolution, the town noted that the primary source of funding transportation and road improvements is through the issuance of debt that is paid for by property tax revenue. “The sales tax would serve as an additional source of funding transportation improvements that doesn’t rely on property taxes and serves to minimize the town’s need to issue debt.”

Commissioner Dave Gilroy voted against the measure. “To set up an entirely new structure which would allow the town to tax in a new way, I’m just not comfortable with that. “It’s just too risky in my mind and I cannot support it.

Commissioner Naas took issue with Gilroy. “This would be different than a transit tax, which goes on forever” Naas said.  “Under the Pennies for Progress program, the sales tax is for a fixed time to raise funds for a specific list of projects. If the funds are not raised by the end of the timeframe, lower ranked projects don’t get built. Furthermore, this move is simply to preserve the option of imposing the sales tax. It would give us another tool in our toolbox for possible future use.”

Cornelius voters have previously approved two bond issues for transportation purposes, including a $24 million referendum last November. As with the bond issues, voters would have the final say via a referendum on the ballot. State legislation would be required to initiate the local sales referendum tax, and it’s unclear if the state legislators plan to address this in their current session. The resolution will be carried to Raleigh by State Senator Natasha Marcus.


In other action, the commissioners conducted the first public hearing on the “Retreat at West Catawba” opposite Elevation Church. Several residents brought out concerns about the added traffic.

Assistant Town Manager Wayne Herron noted that the NCDOT is still reviewing the proposal with regard to the planned community’s entrance and exit. The proposal calls for up to 60 attached townhomes.