The issue: The town is ready to issue some of their bonds
The Town of Cornelius has voter-approved bond money it can still use for various projects. Phase I bonds were issued in June 2015 that included $5.49 million for roads, intersections and sidewalk projects as well as $4.2 million in parks and recreation bonds to make improvements to parks and expand the town greenways. On May 7, Assistant Town Manager Andrew Grant presented plans to sell Phase II bonds this July that total nearly $6.72 million. Of that, there is planned to be $5.67 million in street bonds for the Bailey Road Extension and Phase II road bond projects as well as $1 million in bonds for Smithville Park and J.V. Washam Elementary Greenway improvements. Grant told the board the money would fund design and construction. Because construction costs have risen, he anticipates needing more than the allotted money to pay for those projects. The required bond resolution to sell the bonds would be done July 2. But even with these bonds getting issued, the town still needs more money for capital improvement projects.
What happened: The board considers new bond referendum
The $4 million in art center bonds from the last bond referendum have not been issued, and are not scheduled to be issued yet. However, because it was approved by voters as money for the art center, it can’t be used for other things. Town staff are seeking a Phase 3 bond referendum. Grant told the board that the new bond referendum language will be pretty general with broad language that allows for flexibility. But there are specific items town staff hope to accomplish with a new bond. Among the projects included in the Capital Improvement Plan for the proposed $24 million new bond are as local matches for the Northcross Drive Extension; Torrence Chapel Road at West Catawba intersection; West Catawba Phase II; intersection improvements along N.C. 115; and U.S. 21 widening. Several items on the list have the project as well as additional money for bike and pedestrian accommodations. Grant told the board if there is ever an opportunity to do those, now would be it.
What it means: Staff working to keep project costs low
If the board goes forward with the bond plans and they are approved by voters, the town would have access to millions of dollars that would have to be paid back if issued. Town Manager Anthony Roberts said staff “continue day after to day to beat down the cost.” He told the board it’s not just road projects but an overall way to better the town. The aim is to keep the referendum as low as possible, but he said that he doesn’t see the cost of road projects coming down. For their recommendation, staff have requested the board put a $24 million referendum on the ballot for November 2018. Before, during and after, staff will continue to work with NCDOT to reduce project costs. But there is also some allowance padded in for increases in project costs above estimates, which allows for funding for other projects if changes occur and gives funding for NCDOT projects that need local matches.
What’s next: The board has to approve the bond plans first
There are several steps in getting a bond on the ballot. From there, voters will have to decide if it’s something they want to pursue. Commissioners were told at their meeting that there are different resolutions that have to be passed in order to get a bond referendum on the November ballot. Those will have to be passed June 4, July 6 and Aug. 2. As part of the process, the board must advertise the bond resolutions prior to the approval of the board, and the bond counsel has to notify the board of elections to allow time for it to be put on the ballot. Commissioners were warned they could reduce the amount of money being sought, but they can’t increase it without having to start the process all over again. The board gave an unofficial consensus to move forward with the process during the May 7 meeting. Even if voters approve the projects, it’s up to a future town board to authorize the use of the funds. Commissioners authorize exactly how much will be issued and when.