CORNELIUS NC: June 3rd Town Board Meeting. Disagreement between development zoning parties and then disagreement between commissioners over the Town Budget caused this meeting to balloon to over three hours in length.
Cornelius Town Budget for fiscal year 2020
Town leadership considered and approved the budget for Fiscal Year 2020 (running July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020). Introduced at the last meeting, Manager Andrew Grant’s $24 million budget contained funding for increased salaries, an HR director, and debt servicing. The new items will be partially paid for by cuts to recurring operating costs and deferrals of non-essential capital projects. Grant proposed a tax rate of 22.2¢/$100 dollars assessed, 2¢ above revenue neutral. The tax rate is actually lower than the current rate of 25.5¢/$100. However, most residents will see an increase in their tax bill due to the higher property values designated by the latest Mecklenburg property re-evaluation. The effective “tax increase” was the source of disagreement among some of the commissioners.
When citizens had a chance to comment, seven members of the community spoke in support of the proposed budget. All spoke of the need to retain our talented town employees. David Hodgeson, a self proclaimed “fiscal conservative”, agreed with the increased spending stating a community need to “support the people that make the community great.” Charmaine Nephew, a member of a citizen’s committee for employee retention, said that it was “irresponsible not to act,” by raising salaries to promote retention of police officers and other town employees.
Commissioners were not unanimous with approval of the budget, which only passed with a 3-2 majority. Commissioner Denis Bilodeau praised the budget as “not revenue neutral but revenue appropriate” whereas Commissioner Dave Gilroy claimed to speak for silent citizens (those not present) by stating that it “does not meet citizen’s expectations for discipline.” Mayor Pro-Tem Michael Miltich disagreed, having Manager Grant point out a significant decrease in non-retirement departures following salary adjustments in March.
Grant defended his budget by saying it “helps the Town maintain service levels that our community deserves by paying our staff a fair wage, especially in the competitive labor market where qualified employees are recruited heavily by other towns and counties. The majority of salaries that were below market were in the police department, including police officers and 911 tele-communicators.”
Forest at Bailey’s Glen Phase 3
The meeting opened with a one and a half hour public hearing on the Forest at Bailey’s Glen Proposed Phase 3 development. Neighbor to the proposed development Kevin Violette and attorney Kenneth Davies came armed with a list of demands—they hoped the town would impose on developer Jake Palillo’s plan for new homes and an amenities center. Palillo spoke about changes to the plan that have already been made and his hopes to move forward. Davies countered with needs for tighter legal language to preserve the land. This continued back and forth with mentions of lawsuits and uncouth language until the board moved to continue discussion for a fourth hearing on June 17th.
Other agenda items
Ratification of fee changes and a county Emergency Operation Plan were discussed. When appointments to the Land Development Code Advisory Board were brought up, Commissioner Kurt Naas pointed out a need for new blood, citing some members have been serving for over a decade. With a lack of applicants, these reappointments were unanimously passed, with a promise to work harder in the future to encourage more applicants for these positions.