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Cornelius News

Town budget may include 3% raise

May 19. By Dave Vieser. The town’s roughly $24 million budget for next year, which may or may not have raises for all employees, moved another step forward at Monday evening’s virtual Cornelius Town Board meeting, with a June 1 submission deadline looming.

The chief turning points on the budget at this point include:

Merit Raises for town staff: The draft contains funds to cover an average 3 percent merit raise for all employees. At Monday’s meeting, Commissioner Mike Miltich suggested that the raises be eliminated. “In speaking with local business people in town, many are doing without raises this year under the difficult circumstances we face,” Miltich said. “I think we should consider the same.” Miltich also said that Davidson Commissioners were eliminating merit raises in their 2021 budget. His recommendation did not sit well with Mayor Woody Washam nor most of the board. “This is not the time to do that,” said Washam, explaining “it will come around and bite us in the back.”  The town has been working towards providing competitive salaries in recent years. Miltich did receive some degree of support from Commissioner Tricia Sisson, but the other three commissioners indicated they did not favor removing the money for salary increases during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Washam does not vote unless there is a tie.)

Timing of purchases: In light of the unknown fiscal circumstances the town faces, Town Manager Andrew Grant said he would consider moving the purchase of some big-ticket items in the budget, such as a new fire truck and police vehicles, to the latter part of the fiscal year in order to provide some additional fiscal flexibility.

Road resurfacing: One victim of the pandemic in Cornelius will be $200,000 for resurfacing town roads, normally funded by the state through Powell Bill funds. The state will be cutting the payment by about 25 percent. “So we will have to eliminate that from the 2021 budget. We have been keeping our roads in good shape so if there was ever a time when we needed to skip the road work for one year this is it,” Grant said. Funds for the Old Canal road stabilization and South Street Bridge Erosion Control, in Antiquity, remain in the budget.

Dipping into reserves

Even with the cost-cutting measures, the town still faces a deficit but will make up the shortfall by using fund balance reserves. Therefore the proposed tax rate for next year likely will be the same as this years rate: 0.222 cents per $100 assessed value. Town taxes represent about a third of the total tax bill for Cornelius residents.

On Monday June 1, the budget will be presented to the board at a virtual town board meeting. Thereafter, the board will open a public hearing and solicit public comment, with the hearing continuing on Monday June 15, at what they hope will be an in person hearing.

The budget must be adopted by June 30 so depending on reactions to the fiscal plan the town may need to call a special meeting between June 15 and 30 to adopt the budget.