The Cornelius Town Board spent much of its meetings Monday night talking about bonds. Specifically, the board is considering seeking voter approval as early as November to issue up to $20.4 million in bonds to pay for street repairs and sidewalks, parks and recreation and greenways and a proposed community arts center on the east side of town.
With board member Dave Gilroy absent, the board put off until at least June 17 a vote on the proposed 2013-14 budget. The budget as proposed would keep the property tax rate at 24 cents per $100 of assessed value, end leaf pickups with the town’s vacuum truck (bagged leaves still will be collected) and and pay for sidewalks, the Diverging Diamond interchange design enhancements at Exit 28, and other projects.
Commissioners also approved a new town fee schedule, which among other things enshrines in town law the fees to be collected under the new false alarm ordinance.
The board also held a closed session after the regular meeting to discuss two items, a legal matter and a contract.
|TOWN OF CORNELIUS
POSSIBLE BOND PROJECTS
Project summary Group name Amount Street Improvements Public Works $3,500,000 Spray Park Redevelopment 500,000 Sidewalks Public Works 1,000,000 Greenway PARC 1,500,000 Art Center Redevelopment 3,500,000 --------------------------------------------------- Subtotal of 2015 Issue $10,000,000 Street Improvements Public Works $4,000,000 Sidewalks Public Works 650,000 Neighborhood parks development renovation/ expansion PARC 2,000,000 Robbins Park PARC 2,000,000 Greenway PARC 1,750,000 --------------------------------------------------- Subtotal of 2019 Issue $10,400,000 --------------------------------------------------- Total Bond Package $20,400,000
SOURCE: Town of Cornelius
The board spent its 6pm “pre-meeting” and about 45 minutes of its regular meeting Monday discussing potential bonds and strategy for winning passage. The town staff’s $20.4 million proposal is based on the town’s current revenues and borrowing power. Town officials said the referendum could require a tax increase of 1 or 2 cents, but would take advantage of historically low bond interest rates to take on projects that might otherwise have to wait years.
The bond referendum is still just an idea, and there did not appear to be a consensus among board members Monday on the plan. The board will need to decide soon – possibly by month’s end – if it wants to put bonds on the November ballot. If voters OK the bonds, they likely would be issued in at least two waves, in 2015 and 2019,
Commissioner Chuck Travis argued that the proposal seemed too heavily weighted toward parks and recreation. Noting that the town already has good park facilities, he suggested shifting some of the money toward public works and roads.
By meeting’s end, the board and staff had come around to the idea of three separate bond questions, which would fund the following general areas and amounts:
- Public works, including streets and sidewalks – $11,150,000
- Parks & recreation and greenways – $5,255,000
- A community and arts center, and “spray” or “splash” park- $4,000,000
The board asked its own and and outside lawyer a variety of questions about the possible referendum, including how general or specific the questions needed to be. The town still will need a strategy for pitching the bonds to voters.
During the public comment section of the regular board meeting, resident Robert Jakaitis told the board he wasn’t sure of the rationale for issuing bonds. He admitted to not attending any previous discussions about the bonds, but asked, “What I’m missing is why. Why are you doing this?”
Commissioner Jeff Hare took up the challenge. “Interest rates today are 2 1/2 to 3 percent. It’s basically free money, so we can basically accelerate projects today that we’d otherwise have to wait 10 to 20 years,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hare added, “A lot of it is really a reinvestment back into the town, to make sure we maintain our quality of life and to improve our quality of life.”
About half of the money raised through the bonds would pay to bring sidewalks to most parts of town that don’t yet have them, and fund needed road improvements and intersections. But the bonds also would pay for amenities, such as a recreation and community center to be built somewhere east of I-77. A drawing presented at the meeting showed the arts center in the Antiquity Cornelius neighborhood, east of NC 115.
“Our intent is to revitalize our east side of town,” Mayor Lynette Rinker said.
See lists of potential projects to be completed with bonds, including street and sidewalks and a new arts center, on the Town website.
See the full agenda on the town website.