Thursday, October 22, 2015

Hudson's Fiscal Health: Reality or Myth?

On WAMC's Midday Magazine today, the story about the Hudson mayoral race made reference to Mayor William Hallenbeck's claims to have maintained a balanced budget, kept taxes low, and increased the fund balance by more than a million dollars. In the debate on WGXC a few weeks ago, Hallenbeck boasted that, on his watch, the City not only decreased taxes and increased the fund balance but also "made many purchases" (a new firetruck, two new police cars, two new dump trucks, and a new street sweeper) without incurring new debt. How is it possible to both save a lot and spend a lot without an increase in the principal source of revenue--namely, property taxes? The term "voodoo economics," coined by the first President George Bush back in 1980, springs to mind.

Some clarity about the actual state of things was provided at the Common Council Finance Committee meeting on Tuesday. The information presented there reveals that, two thirds of the way through 2015 (the year-to-date numbers are "August actuals"), the City seems to be lagging a bit behind what was anticipated in the 2015 budget for all revenue streams other than property tax. 
  • For Parking Revenues (parking permits and quarters dropped into the meters, as well as parking fines), $707,434 was anticipated; so far, $494,168 has been realized.
  • For Building and Plumbing Permits, $96,000 was anticipated; so far $68,206 has been realized. (In the October 14 debate, Mayor Hallenbeck, responding to a question about alternative sources of revenue, cited building permits, stating that the income from building permits had doubled last year, and indeed they had. In 2013, fees for building permits totaled $51,519; in 2014, they were $112,430. But so far in 2015, although $96,000 was anticipated, only $68,206 has been realized.)
  • For Sales Tax and Mortgage Tax, $1,452,000 was anticipated; so far, $1,113,608 has been realized.
Then there's the matter of the fund balance and the claim that it was increased by "more than a million dollars." That may be true, but so far this year $846,200--the better part of a million--has been spent or committed to various projects. Here are the details, from the report presented at the Finance Committee meeting.

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14 comments:

  1. Neither Mayor Hallenbeck nor Tiffany Martin Hamilton seems to be very good when it comes to managing money. Hamilton filed for personal bankruptcy just last year, while Hallenbeck's numbers are suspect. I wish someone more trustworthy than either of them was running for mayor.

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    1. Calling foul on jkhunka's comment. Bankruptcy does not necessarily mean that a person mismanaged his or her money, or is untrustworthy. There are financial shocks in life such as job loss or medical bills that are especially hard to weather when you provide for a family. It is a last ditch option. No one is proud to file, nor should anyone be shamed, especially when they are providing for families in tough economic times.

      More people go underwater when the waters get high and choppy. Vote for who you will but let's avoid smug generalizations.

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    2. I agree with Kevin. Personal finances and municipal finances are managed very differently and should not be compared. Filing for personal bankruptcy is often the most responsible thing you can do in situations of economic hardship, and its no easy process in NYS. There are very few other options for individuals short of financial ruin. Municipalities, on the other hand, have a range of tools in their financial tool box and Tiffany seems like a far more creative thinker than our current mayor.

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  2. Where does this claim to fame really land?

    Is it actually the makings of the Mayor or that of the Common Council ?

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    1. It's both. A very small minority of alderman votes -- myself, the Haddads sand Don Moore -- have been lobbying (if that's the word) our colleagues (if that's the word) on the Council to at least implement rational fund balance policies so that it can't be raided like a piggy bank (since it's not actually cash, after all). We've been pushed back time and again by the balance of the Council. This recalcitrant majority of alderman votes have been goaded on by the mayor who, in his absolute and complete lack of financial knowledge, continues to equate the fund balance with cash (it's NOT cash, it's the equivalent of owner's equity on a for-profit balance sheet).

      Then there's the disgusting spectacle of crony capitalism whereby the largest land owner in the city, and likely the wealthiest of its citizens, holds a fake gun to the City's head and the majority of the Council, once again goaded by the mayor, hands him $100k of our money. For nothing. With no strings attached. Nice work if you can get it.

      Meanwhile, the City continues to rely on parking ticket revenues (which are declining even as more meters are installed -- there's a joke in there somewhere but I can't see it through the tears), completely ignoring the fact that traffic laws (like speeding) are for all intents and purposes not enforced in this city. I realize the mayor, in his simplicity, believes that enforcing traffic laws, especially as they pertain to trucks, is somehow illegal profiling. His lawyers seem unable to articulate the fact that it isn't in a way that he (Bill) can understand. Meanwhile, we spend 100s of thousands on parking meters, software and manpower to collect $8 tickets. And we can all careen around Hudson as fast as our little cars can carry us! And so can the trucks -- which makes the mayor's heart sing. Woohoo.

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    2. For a moment, I thought the phrase "the largest landowner in the city" was referring to Colarusso and Sons.

      Of course the writer meant Galvan, our other largest landowner ...

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    3. Thank you Mr Friedman.
      Speaking the truth is hard to find.
      What I don't understand, and it seems you may be at a loss too.....why do the council members follow him, to what gain?

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  3. The fact that our tax money is going directly to Galvan, the owner of scores of empty derelict buildings all over Hudson, and which code enforcement turns a blind eye to, is nauseating.
    This should be a big campaign issue.
    Why is the opponent in the mayoral race not bringing this up? How can our sitting mayor possible defend himself?
    Most of the "issues" being discussed don't qualify as real, substantive matters facing our city.
    Speeding cars, drug deals in broad daylight on our streets and alleys, little police visibility and Galvan's shenanigans are among the real issues that should be debated by the candidates.

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    1. I've noticed that prostitution in the alleys - at least in my alley - takes place at night.

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    2. that dang proverbial elephant for the blind to decipher

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  4. Well said, John Friedman. It's disgusting.

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  5. one week ago in the early evening, while my 13 year old son and i were bicycling on the 800 block of Warren we were alerted rather rudely, twice, by a loud car horn that someone thought us annoying and in his/her way. quickly the aggressor zoomed around us in an irritated manner, we were westbound and not going slow, lo and behold when we caught up to the little Honda at the traffic light at 7th and Warren it was john friedman!

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  6. Interesting, that a member of the same high council that separated young Eddie from the North Dock shore should so angrily share city streets in the same manor.

    At the very old age of nine, Eddie was informed that he had been there too long and that he would be replaced by other, Moore deserving youngsters.

    Eddie, Pat Jones Jr, Aaron Schrader JR and other little fishermen, all robbed by their servants, of an ancient tradition, as the up and coming, new stewards of N Dock.

    1 Riparian

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