Property taxes to stay the same in proposal

CORNELIUS – Town Manager Anthony Roberts recommended his first change within minutes of presenting a tentative fiscal year 2015 budget by suggesting doubling the parks maintenance allowance to $100,000.

With that change, which was agreed on by the board during its May 5 meeting, next year’s budget maintains the same tax rate of .24 per $100 valuation.

The recommended general fund budget totals $18.8 million – an increase of more than $1 million from the FY2014 because of increased capital investments of road improvements and new vehicles and police equipment, according to the manager’s message. Bonds are not included in the budget as next January is the estimate for the first issuance and won’t be reflected until FY2016.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled during the May 19 board meeting, which takes place at 7 p.m. at town hall. Commissioners will vote that night or June 2.

• Revenues: Town revenues come largely from property and sales taxes. The revenue from property tax is $11.7 million. Sales tax revenues show a decrease of 2 percent this year because the number accounts for all of Mecklenburg County and its towns. Overall, projected revenue streams are up $735,000 from 2014.

• Parks: Already, parks were a hot topic. Initial plans offered $50,000 for parks maintenance, but Parks Commissioner Tedd Duncan said that wasn’t enough, with the support of Roberts. Duncan said many of the needed repairs have been deferred from previous years and items are only getting worse. Extra money from the general fund balance would go toward paving three tennis courts and two basketball courts and expanding the community garden, Roberts said.

Parks Commission Chairman Del Arrendale thanked the board for the increase and asked commissioners to consider an annual maintenance fund.

The proposed budget also includes money to update the parks master plan to be eligible for grants, manage Robbins Park Phase II construction, add synthetic turf to Bailey Road Park and improve the McDowell Creek greenway.

• Emergency Services: Before the presentation, resident Alvin Smith requested the board fulfill the requests of the fire and police departments.

“They two chiefs don’t put in wish lists,” he said. “They put in what is necessary for those two departments.”

The fire department is slated to get an extra $78,000 to replace uniforms, pay the increase in radio user fees and raise workers compensation costs. Police will receive funding for desktop and mobile computers, renovate the department building and upgrade the fiber optics and camera network. Money is also slotted to replace four police vehicles and a ladder fire truck.

• Road improvements: Town staff is evaluating what improvements can be made to roads and sidewalks. They’ve currently allocated $600,000 for street resurfacing and $500,000 for sidewalk construction, which will be paid through Powell Bill funds. Those numbers could change based on the results of the studies.

The budget also allocated funding for potential road improvements for the Torrence Chapel/West Catawba Avenue intersection, Northcross Drive extension and the N.C. 21/Catawba intersection, plus $1.8 million in contributions for the diverging diamond interchange.

• Services: As previously reported, Cornelius ElectriCities customers will see an average 4 percent rate increase, though not all bills will increase that much. The budget also shows increases in garbage costs and funding to improve leaf collection. The budget offers $20,000 for public art.

• Personnel: The budget doesn’t add any new full-time positions, but does allow for an average 3 percent merit pay raise. An intern will also be hired at an estimated rate of $30,000 to update the GIS system, which is used by the police, fire and planning departments.

The general services, animal control, public works, storm water management and tourism departments will see a decrease in spending, according to the manager's message.