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As Cornelius administrative costs rise, fees might, too

Business license and planning/development fees may be going up in Cornelius in the near future.

At a work session Monday night, Oct. 3, city council members discussed a staff report proposing the increases, prior to their regular council meeting.

“Our (administrative) costs have gone up, so we need to raise some revenue in some different areas, including a fee increase,” said City Manager Rob Drake.

The proposed fee increase would have several tiers and the exact rates would depend on several factors, including the size of the business and number of employees. Staff testimony and council discussion centered on how, for most small businesses, the annual increase might be $35 to $75.

The proposed changes would raise about $10,000, Drake said.

Council President Dave Schamp asked how Cornelius’ business license rates compared to Hillsboro, Forest Grove and neighboring cities.

Accounting Manager Ellie Jones said Cornelius rates are “on the low side” and the proposed increases would put the city more “in the middle” compared to other cities.

Cornelius has not raised business license fees in almost ten years, Drake said.

Council members noted the city has a large proportion of home-based businesses and any increase needed to be sensitive to that. Drake told councilors that proposed license increase would not affect banks and few other business sectors because of state law exemptions.

“Why?” asked councilor Steve Heinrich.“Because they have very good lobbyists,” Drake replied.

Increased planning and development fees are similarly needed, said Ryan Wells, director of community and housing development. Wells said those fees have not been raised in years and are also below adjoining cities.

The exact details are still to come, but even a small fee increase on 850 lots in the city would be significant revenue, he said.

The city council will publicly discuss the proposed increases at its Oct. 17 meeting. Wells said if the council approves the fee increases, they would take effect Jan. 1, 2017.

Also during the Monday work session, councilors briefly touched on the pros and cons of taking a public position on the state Ballot Measure 97 corporate tax increase prior to the Nov. 4 general election.

At its regular meeting, the council unanimously approved an $80,000 Community Development Block Grant application. The grant would help construct sidewalks along four city blocks near the new private Swallowtail School on Heather Street, said

Public Works Director Mark Crowell.