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Cornelius News

Town manager’s proposed $28 million budget calls for penny tax increase

Photo by Jason Benavides

May 3. By Dave Vieser. The proposed $28.35 million municipal budget unveiled Monday evening by Cornelius Town Manager Andrew Grant contains a one cent increase in the town tax rate, which would cost a family with a home valued at $450,000 an additional $45 a year. If adopted by the Town Board, the tax rate would increase to 0.232 per $100 tax value and would be the first town property tax increase in Cornelius since 2018.

However, initial reaction from the Town Board on the spending plan, which represents an increase of almost 8 percent from the current $26 million budget, was mixed. Commissioners Michael Osborne and Todd Sansbury leaned towards accepting the increase though they both wanted more input from residents and taxpayers; Commissioners Dave Gilroy and Denis Bilodeau indicated they were against a tax increase at this time, and Commissioner Colin Furcht, who had campaigned against a tax increase, said he now needed more input to make his decision.

An understatement?

“I foresee a robust discussion ahead of us,” Furcht said.

One of the more controversial elements of the new budget was the $28.35 million bottom line. While that’s correct, the town will actually spend over $33 million in fiscal year 2023 under the proposed budget—thanks to one-time ARPA funding.

“An additional $4.8 million of American Rescue plan funds are being utilized to supplant Public Safety salaries in order to free up the Town’s funds so they can be utilized for other vital services,” said Grant.

Gilroy felt that the $33 million figure was what real spending would be under the budget, not $28.35 million. However, Mayor Woody Washam, who only votes if there is a tie, disagreed with Gilroy.

Washam

“The actual budget is not $33 million, it is $28 million. The American Rescue Plan funds are a one-time ‘golden egg’ from the federal government. I guess we will just agree to disagree,” Washam, a long-time banker, said.

To view the $28 million budget, click here.

Background

Town taxes account for approximately 25-30 percent of a typical property tax bill, funding vital services provided by the town, including police, fire, parks/recreation, public works, and planning.

The remainder of a homeowner’s tax bill are county taxes which help fund other important services, including public schools, the county assessors department, fire marshal, health department and social services.

Personnel costs

The proposed budget includes a 3.5 percent merit pool for salary increases plus another 2.5 percent cost of living increase. About 75 percent of the town’s expenses are driven by costs in public safety areas such as the police, fire and telecommunication 911 departments.

Personnel expenses have risen in these areas in order to retain employees as well as transitioning the fire department to a full time operation.

Public hearing

A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held on Monday May 16, at Town Hall and will likely be continued to June 6.

Pursuant to state law, the town must adopt a new budget by July 1. It could be adopted earlier, during the scheduled town board meetings on June 6 or June 20.

Discussion

8 Responses to “Town manager’s proposed $28 million budget calls for penny tax increase”

  1. OMG, this is like Alice in Wonderland. Spending, cash out the door, actual expenditures… anyway that anyone with common sense would define “budget” is proposed to be $33.2 million, NOT A PENNY LESS.

    It is incredibly misleading to the public to say this is “an increase of almost 8%” when proposed spending next year is actually over 20% higher than this year.

    Vieser, please call me (or Town Finance Manager Julie Niswonger) if you’re still confused about this at all. Thanks

    Posted by Dave Gilroy, Mayor Pro Tem, Cornelius | May 3, 2022, 11:56 am
  2. I would have to agree with Dave Gilroy on the actual budget, if spending is $33 million that’s the budget. Although $4.8M ARP funds are being used for Public Safety salaries, these are recurring expenses and ARP funds are a one-time revenue add. If the budget is stated as $28M, the 2024 budget will have to be a whopping 14% increase just to get to budget neutral. Given this, expect this board will be increasing your taxes every year.

    Posted by Tricia Sisson | May 3, 2022, 12:14 pm
  3. As a taxpaying citizen, I don’t want a tax increase. However, increased cost for effective public safety and 13 simultaneous road projects resulted in higher costs compared to revenue. Some of the costs overruns weren’t effectively forecasted or managed in the past, resulting in corrective actions needed by the current board. If citizens prefer a net neutral tax position and reduced services, please make your commissioners aware. If you are realizing higher costs in your normal daily activities, unfortunately, those same cost patterns apply to essential municipal services.

    Posted by Todd Sansbury, Town Commissioner | May 3, 2022, 2:10 pm
    • Disagree with the characterization of “cost overruns” by prior Boards. Each of the past 4 years’ financials reflect a contribution to the Town’s savings account to the tune of $14+ million. New Board members should be careful casting stones as their action regarding police and other salary changes are the very same actions taken two years ago ( off cycle ) based on the town’s salary committee/ market study recommendations.
      As we look to the future, agree we must plan for increased debt service due to road improvements. More budgeting work needs to be done before we ask for additional taxes.
      Denis Bilodeau, Commissioner
      Town of Cornelius

      Posted by Denis Bilodeau | May 3, 2022, 3:09 pm
  4. I absolutely agree we should fund public safety and essential services, and the voters did support bond referendums for the road projects. I take exception to the accusation that previous boards caused cost overruns, on the contrary the prior board left this board with the largest fund balance on record in Cornelius. Please take a hard look at the budget, there is enough non-essential spending embedded in this budget that can be micromanaged to avoid a tax increase. Stop providing dinner at every pre-meeting and committee meeting, and, while not alot, would save $’s. And every dollar of your constituents’ taxes count.

    Posted by Tricia | May 3, 2022, 2:51 pm
  5. I’d be willing to chip in an extra $100 per year if they’d just fix that terrible intersection at Westmoreland and Highway 21 (by Tenders). With no left turn lane on Westmoreland heading east, afternoon traffic backs up all the way to the WAC because only a few cars can get through each light cycle. How difficult could it be to fix that? BTW, hat tip to Tricia Sisson for getting the right turn green light installed. That helps — if you can get to that point in the line of cars.

    Posted by Stevie | May 3, 2022, 3:59 pm
  6. There’s a lot to unpack here and Dave Gilroy and I discussed this during the meeting. Yes the budget is $28M. Yes, next year and the year after will be $33M+. We ALL agreed to supplant the ARPA Funs so that we could use them as effectively and efficiently for the Town. While I do support the necessary raises for Fire, Police and Town staff, this is not the core of discussion. The needed right sizing of salaries is impacting every Individual, Business, Town, etc. in the country. This has been reviewed by both Chiefs and the HR consultants we have been working with. We NEED to do this or risk losing more employees that serve and protect our town. No one that I have spoken with is opposed to this. For me, the 1 cent potential tax increase is specifically for the Bonds that will come due over the next few years. The cliff is real. The data, as it stands today, shows this. While I agree with Commissioner Bilodeau on the need for real time numbers, as opposed to forecasts, there will be a large pull from the General Fund. We as residents approved these bonds, we needed the projects. No question there. However, when these projects were approved there were no funding vehicles attached to them, now we find ourselves waiting for the cliff. It may not be 2027 but its not going to be much later. We ALL have to acknowledge that things have become more expensive, the piper needs to be paid AND while having the lowest tax rate in the state has been a great tag line, we just cannot support the services and quality of life we have all come to expect that way.

    I am hopeful more folks will come forward with thoughtful and respectful input here. We, as a Board, have been begging for feedback since we were sworn in last December.

    Lastly, shame on you Tricia for your comment about meals. You must have forgotten the significant amount of time spent at Town Hall for those of us with other commitments and responsibilities but still make time to make EVERY meeting. Even those that start at 4pm, with no time to run out. This is a very small way to treat folks like human beings. I will be happy to forego the occasional slice of pizza and pack a granola bar if you think that will make a difference.

    Posted by Colin Furcht | May 3, 2022, 4:09 pm
  7. First, thank you to all town Commissioners; past, present and future, the Mayor and town employees, fire, police, etc.. Town Road projects in the works will make traffic a non-issue in a couple/few years. We need to make sure our town is not left behind regarding development. Both residential and commercial. We need things to do, places to work and people to come to our businesses.I don’t think the no “no new joiners attitude” to our beautiful Cornelius is a responsible one. Traffic solutions are not here, but coming soon. West Catawba handles 21,000 cars a day, once the road is widened 50,000 ;))) We need growth to keep taxes in check and have our beautiful town grow like all other smart towns in the region. It would be a crime to have the area between West Moreland the post office look like it does today, 10 years from now. I am optimistic our residence and leaders will vote for better things for us all.

    Posted by Trish Kowalchyk | May 3, 2022, 8:30 pm

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