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The budget is about 15 percent bigger than last year's, accounting for expected growth.

After holding a public hearing Monday, June 4, the Cornelius City Council unanimously adopted a $42.4 million budget for the city's coming fiscal year.

The budget marks a roughly 15 percent increase over the $36.7 million budget the council adopted a year ago for the fiscal year that ends June 30. The larger size of this year's budget comes as little surprise, considering the budget for fiscal year 2017-18 was slightly smaller than the previous budget and the city of Cornelius is on a growth trend.

"This year's FY 2018-19 budget is based on limited resources and reflects the ability of our citizens and businesses to pay for services," City Manager Rob Drake stated in his budget message. "The overall service levels will provide adequate coverage and focus on public safety, maintaining roads, providing safe and inviting park facilities, and maintaining library services."

Drake noted that the cost of those library services will increase once the new library building, Cornelius Place, is completed early next year. The council also received an update from the Cornelius Place project team Monday. The new library space will be almost five times bigger than the existing library and is expected to require more staff to operate.

"There's no substitute for having additional bodies there for safety and for the additional customers you'll have," said Drake, who recalled opening a larger Beaverton City Library in 2000 when he was Beaverton's mayor.

Drake said city officials were questioned about the higher staffing levels.

"It had been a concern of residents here — we're going from a 3,000-square-foot library to one that's over 14,000 — they asked good questions about 'well, who's going to pay for the additional staffing,'" Drake said. The answer, he continued, is that the Washington County Cooperative Library Services levy includes "jump-start" funding for new and expanded libraries: "We were successful in getting WCCLS to listen to our story, look at our projections, and the WCCLS (boards) … voted for this for us as they did for other libraries."

Only about $7.48 million of the budget is set aside for general fund expenditures — about a quarter of all expenditures in the budget, with revenues expected to exceed expenditures by more than $12 million.

"The bulk of the big jump is easy to explain. With 1,200 homes in the pipeline right now … this is taking a projection for the next fiscal year, which we routinely do," said Drake, noting that the budget accounts for expected system development charges, construction excise taxes and other revenue the city will take in as new houses and apartments are built. "Any fees related to growth are going to take a jump up when there's 1,200 homes beginning to start being built."

Along with the budget, utility rates are on the rise in Cornelius. The City Council approved a 5 percent water rate increase, along with small sanitary sewer and stormwater rate increases, at Monday's meeting. That vote was also unanimous.

No one offered testimony at public hearings on the budget or utility rate increase Monday evening. There was little council discussion of either agenda item at the meeting beyond a short briefing by Ellie Jones, the city's finance manager.

City Council President Dave Schamp was absent from Monday's meeting.

Most public agencies, like the City of Cornelius, are required to adopt budgets for FY 2018-19 before the end of June. FY 2018-19 officially begins on July 1.

By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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