by Brian Carlton

CORNELIUS – The tax rate could drop next year in Cornelius while energy bills climb for residents. Town Manager Anthony Roberts presented his recommended budget to commissioners during their Monday, May 21 meeting, proposing a tax rate of 24 cents per $100 of assessed value. That’s down from 25 cents per $100 of assessed value this year.

Roberts said the town could afford to lower the tax rate because of the higher-than-expected property values that came as a result of this year’s county revaluation.

“While numerous appeals are still under review, the property values appear to have risen more than 20 percent,” Roberts stated.

But while the tax rate could drop, residents will end up paying more for energy. The proposed budget calls for a 6.5 percent hike in energy rates. The town owns its electric distribution system. Roberts said they expect a 5.6 percent increase in the wholesale cost of power next year.

“The rate increase that will be passed on to customers, 6.5 percent, will still be lower than Duke Power rates,” Roberts said.

Roberts proposed an overall budget of $19.6 million for next year. That’s down from the $19.8 million Cornelius will finish this fiscal year with.

Police services came in as the largest budget item at a recommended $4.8 million.

Ongoing debt service payments will cost $2.8 million. The parks and recreation budget ranked third at $2 million. That’s up from $1.2 million spent last year.

Other high-priced items include $800,000 for the new phase of Robbins Park, $735,000 for the Caldwell Station and Creek Greenway, $395,000 for sidewalk connections and $450,000 for street resurfacing.

A new approach to economic development will also increase the budget. The new budget calls for Cornelius to create a local economic development coordinator position costing $100,000.

“The board had some discussion on it this morning and tonight,” Roberts said. “We’ll continue to have discussion on that. We’ll continue to fund the Lake Norman Regional Economic Development Corporation on a regional basis, to look at bringing big fish into the pond, but this is more of a local economic development person, focusing on looking at specific needs.”

Also, if approved, the town would hire an additional firefighter position for the Cornelius-Lemley Volunteer Fire Department for $40,000 per year. This marks the first year where the town of Huntersville won’t share in the operating costs for the North Mecklenburg Communications Center, serving fire and rescue calls. With Cornelius taking on the added requirements, that service will cost $400,000.

A public hearing will be held on the proposed budget Monday, June 4, at town hall.

Cornelius abandons change

to official terms

Elections will proceed on a regular schedule. Commissioners rescinded their earlier request to change term limits in town. Hoping to generate a larger turnout at the polls, commissioners asked the state earlier this year to allow them align town elections with presidential elections. Data from this year’s primary, however, showed that a large turnout doesn’t guarantee more voters in local races.