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Cornelius News

Tax increase may be on the horizon, as well as a bond referendum


March 28. By Dave Vieser. Cornelius commissioners are looking at the possibility of enacting a one cent tax increase in next year’s budget, primarily to accumulate the funds needed for burying utility lines along the West Catawba Ave corridor from Jetton Road to Sam Furr Road. Although the road itself is not due to be widened until 2020, the town would need to make a fiscal commitment soon, either by raising taxes now or dipping into its reserve fund balance of some $16 million. Thing is, the reserve fund is already largely committed.

“No one likes tax increases but we all love living in a beautiful lakeside town” said Commissioner Dr. Mike Miltich, who has set up an informational meeting on the subject Tuesday April 5, 6 pm, at Prosciutto’s Pizzeria in Shops on the Green. “I am seeking discussion and comments from our citizens on this option considering the cost.”

Meanwhile, town commissioners are privately saying the financial needs are so big that another bond issue will likely be placed on the ballot for voters to decide how their money is spent. Indeed, burying utility lines from Jetton to Sam Furr Road would cost around $12 million to $13 million. Raising the town’s tax rate by only one cent generates about $520,000 a year, according to finance director Jackie Huffman.

The town’s tax rate, currently 24 cents/$100 tax valuation, is one of the lowest in the area. For a resident with a home valued at the town’s median value of $250,000 the increase would amount to about $25 a year.

If the town decides against burying the utility lines, the NCDOT would provide the funds needed to move the poles and lines, but they would remain above ground, rather than matching the pole-free look along West Catawba from I-77 to Jetton Road. That stretch of West Catawba was widened five years ago.

Also factoring into the town’s tax decisions over the long haul are a host of other capital projects which the town would like to do, plus concerns that salaries in Cornelius are lower than surrounding communities.

For the immediate budget, however, town commissioners must decide whether the high cost of burying the lines, estimated at $7 million for the stretch from Jetton to Westmoreland Roads, and another $8 million for the remainder, is an appropriate reason for increasing taxes now.

A decision must be made by the time the town board adopts its 2017 budget, which by law must be done on or before July 1