The Cornelius Town Board Monday night unanimously approved Town Manager Anthony Roberts’ recommended FY2012 budget, including a tax rate of 25 cents per $100 of assessed value – a cut from the current rate. Also Monday, the board approved planning rules changes that address installation of antenna systems; heard about plans for a new small area plan for areas around I-77 Exit 28; and voted to oppose Senate Bill 731, which restricts local authority over building design for single-family homes.
Before the budget vote, the board held a public hearing on the budget, though no one showed up to speak. Cornelius Mayor Jeff Tarte then commended Mr. Roberts for his work and asked board members if they felt prepared to vote on the $17.2 million budget and 25-cent tax rate, to which they all agreed.
The new tax rate of 25 cents is just below a “revenue neutral” tax rate and 2.5 cents lower than the current rate. State law requires towns to publish a “revenue neutral” tax rate figure – a new rate that would keep revenues about where they are, with some adjustment for growth and annexation – but does not require the towns to set their tax rate at that revenue-neutral level.
Cornelius board members said for months that they wanted a revenue neutral tax rate for FY2012, and Mr. Roberts set the rate based on the latest figures from the Mecklenburg County Assessor, which show more than $1 billion in increases in Cornelius property values following the property revaluation earlier this year. The 25-cent tax rate makes Cornelius’ rate the lowest among N.C. towns of similar populations that have their own police departments.
Overall, the budget is little changed from the plan commissioners have been discussing since the board retreat in March. It includes:
- Level funding for Lake Norman Economic Development Corp. (EDC), an organization responsible for economic development strategy and business recruiting in Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and the Lake Norman region, withholding 25 percent of the $75,850 until the Town Board is satisfied the EDC is meeting its recruitment goals.
- A 2.5 percent overall increase in funds for personnel, who have not seen a pay increase in two years. The increase will help fix compression – a narrowing of the pay between entry level and senior-level employees – and address increases in retirement costs and merit-based raises, Mr. Roberts said.
- Operating costs associated with the Westmoreland Athletic Complex and Robbins Park, as well as increased costs for waste management.
- Money for wayfinding signs, police cars and a fire truck, park maintenance, sidewalk installation and improvements to the intersection at Westmoreland and West Catawba.
Following the unanimous vote to approve the manager’s budget, board members applauded. The agreement among commissioners is a testament to the work of the Town Manager and staff, Mayor Tarte said.
“We’re not necessarily fiscally conservative, but we’re being fiscally responsible,” he said.
ALSO AT THE BOARD MEETING MONDAY:
Text amendments for antenna systems:
Board members voted to approve text amendments to the land development code that allow for antenna systems and provide criteria for approval of the systems. Included in the amendments are guidelines regarding antenna system placement, height, documentation, installation and removal, as well as testing for safe levels of radio frequencies.
The town received a request last year from American Tower to install distributed antenna systems (DAS) in areas on the Peninsula and around town, but had no procedure in place for review and approval of such a project. The text amendments add language to address similar projects should they come up in the future.
Small area plan:
Town Planner Jason Abernethy presented to the board an outline of steps towards developing a small area plan for the Exit 28 interchange and nearby areas. Commissioner Jim Bensman and other board members last month asked town staff to put together a small area plan to define certain goals, wants and needs for the town prior to construction of the diverging diamond interchange and the widening of I-77 in the coming years. In the plan, town officials hope to address:
- the disconnect between the east and west side of town
- development of the town’s identity/brand
- adherence to the overall goals of the comprehensive master plan, a project more than a year in the making
- economic/marketing potential for the area
Senate Bill 731:
Board members unanimously approved a resolution against the passage of Senate Bill 731, a bill that would restrict the authority of local governments to control design plans for single family homes in small zoning districts. Cornelius joins the towns of Davidson and Huntersville in opposing the bill. Read the resolution.
Discovery Daycare addition:
Board members delayed the public hearing planned regarding an addition to the Discovery Daycare building on Knox Road because certain people involved in the project could not be present at Monday’s meeting.
Animal shelter veterinary care:
Board members delayed voting on a resolution to enter a service agreement with North Mecklenburg Animal Hospital to be the sole provider of vet care to the Cornelius Animal Shelter. Cornelius Police Chief Bence Hoyle plans to meet with the owners of both the North Meck and Cornelius animal hospitals to see if they might work out a shared service agreement.