by Brett Freeman

HUNTERSVILLE – Money that will be spent this year isn’t dominating Huntersville budget discussions, but rather money that might be spent in the future. The board will decide during its budget process about putting a major bond referendum on the ballot in November to fund large capital projects over the next seven years and likely raise property taxes.

Huntersville voters last passed a bond referendum in 2003. That $20 million package was used to fund such projects as the widening of N.C. 73, Bradford Park, the Eastfield Road fire station and the Huntersville Town Center (Discovery Place KIDS!) building. That bond package is nearly tapped out – about $2.4 million remains – while the town’s capital needs have only increased.

The latest Capital Improvement Program (CIP) lists more than $42 million worth of projects for the next five years. Most of those projects would need funding from new bonds that may be passed by referendum.

This bond referendum would almost certainly require a property tax increase.

Huntersville Town Manager Greg Ferguson presented his proposed budget for the coming fiscal year to the board at its Monday, May 7, meeting.

“The real question when you net it out is, do you believe there’s a willingness for the citizens to pay an increased tax rate amount to have some of these projects delivered,” Ferguson said. “There is no capacity to move big numbers of projects forward under current operating revenues. The growth is not there.”

The board is considering a $30 million bond referendum.

Ferguson said to get a bond resolution on the ballot in November, the board will have to approve the language to appear on the ballot by mid-June.

The board will discuss the operating budget in more depth at a special meeting Monday, May 14, at 10 a.m. Ferguson noted that revenues are  increasing slowly as the economy continues to recover. His proposed budget without the bond referendum would leave the property tax rate unchanged, and funding for most departments will be fairly flat.