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Cornelius News

Penny tax increase splits Town Board 3-2

July 12. By Dave Vieser. The 3-2 vote taken in June approving the $33.1 million Cornelius 2023 budget revealed an interesting split among the commissioners.  All three yes votes came at the hands of new town board members elected last November: Colin Furcht, Michael Osborne and Todd Sansbury.

They had run successfully on a “Contract with Cornelius” platform which criticized incumbents for not listening to citizen concerns, primarily about rapid development. Incumbent commissioner Denis Bilodeau voted no, as did Dave Gilroy, who had served on the board previously and also ran on the “contract” initiative.

Both found fault with the proposed tax increase in the budget. Mayor Woody Washam does not vote unless there is a tie, but before the vote, he voiced support for the spending plan.

The  budget will result in a tax increase of one cent for the average taxpayer, or about $45 annually. This increase will generate approximately $765,000 to pay for the newly issued debt associated with voter approved General Obligation bonds authorized in 2013 and 2018 for town center redevelopment and transportation bonds. Two weeks later on June 20, the commissioners also approved some 60 fee increases which will impact primarily on the use of parks and recreation facilities.

Votes explained

The trio of newcomers said that their approval came after “robust” discussions with residents, town officials and fellow commissioners. They also spent considerable time reviewing the results of a survey of residents conducted earlier this year.


“Most people who responded to the survey indicated that they would prefer for the town to pay for expenses as they occur rather than delaying those payments,” said Commissioner Osborne.

He said commissioners know the expenses we face now, but not what the future will bring.

Commissioner Furcht added that “this budget takes care of fire, police, roads, parks…all the services are in this budget and these are the services our citizens said were important in the survey.”

The commissioners who voted no feel otherwise.

“I see spending increases all piled into one year beyond what disciplined financial management requires,” said Commissioner Dave Gilroy. “We have lots of retirees and others in this town who are on fixed incomes, and this is a tough year, as people struggle with the insanity of inflation. We can’t do everything for everybody and I feel a tax increase at this time is unnecessary.”


Bilodeau concurred. “Pushing through a tax increase is premature and an overreaction to a dire forecast that has been significantly off the mark for the past four years.”

Mayor Washam explained his view on the plan.

“The increase in this budget is due to personnel costs, such as hiring additional full-time firefighters in order to provide adequate fire and rescue services to our community,” he said.

Public Safety accounts for 75 percent of the personnel cost increases and approximately 40 percent of the operating cost increases.

“Of the citizens who have responded to our survey, almost two-thirds said they were more concerned about maintaining and expanding essential and quality public services than they were with a tax increase,” Washam said.

Cornelius vs. neighboring towns

Cornelius has consistently had one of the lowest tax rates of any towns in Mecklenburg County. Even with a penny tax rate increase, the new rate of 0.232 per $100 assessed value will remain lower than Huntersville’s rate of 0.2400 per $100 assessed value, which was unchanged in their new budget, and significantly lower than Davidson’s new tax rate of .325 per $100 assessed value, which now also includes a solid waste fee.

County taxes

While considerable attention is always focused on town tax rates, nearly 70 percent of a property owner’s tax bill is actually comprised of Mecklenburg taxes for such services as public schools, assessment and the county sheriff’s office. The county tax rate for 2023 remains unchanged at 0.6169 per $100 assessed value.

It means the owners of a property assessed at $400,000 will pay a combined $3,395.60 in county and local taxes next year.

Reval wildcard

All this, and Mecklenburg County is in the final stages of a property revaluation. In January 2023, new property tax values will be sent to all owners.

They will reflect more recent sales data and, in all likelihood, much higher values.

How will this impact the tax rates and taxes actually paid? Property taxes are a function of both rates and assessed values, so if values increase, rates would need to decrease in order to raise the same amount of revenue—known as revenue neutral in municipal budgeting.

The last time a reval was implemented in the county, which was 2019, the Cornelius tax rate decreased from .2555 to .2220 per $100 assessed value.

All eyes will be on the Town Board next spring when they address this situation, which will impact every property owner in Cornelius.