Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Hudson Budget for 2017

On Monday, at a special meeting of the Common Council, Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton presented the 2017 budget proposed by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment. She told the aldermen that she was proud of budget, saying that she and the other members of the BEA (Common Council president Claudia DeStefao and city treasurer Heather Campbell) were able to "identify opportunities for increased efficiency and cost saving, while increasing programming." The proposed 2017 budget represents a 1.8 percent increase over the budget for 2016. Total expenditures are increasing by $260,229--from $10,328,376 to $10,588,605.

In her presentation, the mayor outlined the following "significant improvements."

Police Department  By transitioning to leasing vehicles instead of purchasing them, the Hudson Police Department will have four new patrol cars, fully equipped with the latest technology. The mayor's budget memo explains that the transition to leasing "will allow us to consistently maintain a new fleet and reduce maintenance costs." The HPD will also hire a fourth dispatcher, "which will significantly reduce the use of officers and a per diem resource to cover dispatch duties."

Senior Center  The budget for the Senior Center will be increased by 21 percent, which will provide for 27.5 hours a week of staffing "to oversee, manage, and develop afternoon programming." There will also be increased funding for programming.

Youth Department  The budget for the Youth Department will be increased by 6.1 percent. The summer program, which was the primary reason the Youth Department ran out of money in September of this year, is being restructured. Instead of moving the entire operation to Oakdale for the summer, the (air-conditioned) Youth Center at Third and Union streets will be the primary location for summer programming, "using city parks and other area resources to broaden options and using Oakdale for swimming lessons and open swim." A part-time Youth Director will be hired "to focus on management and fiscal oversight, including budgeting, grant writing, and the further development and expansion of partnerships with local agencies and organizations to provide more comprehensive programming for youth."

Fire Department  For the first time in years, there will be a modest increase to the budget for the Hudson Fire Department "to allow for increased training opportunities." In addition, $100,000 will be added to the fire truck reserve fund. The money required to fund the Service Award Program for Hudson's volunteer fire fighters, which was approved by referendum on Tuesday, will not be part of the budget until 2018.

The mayor indicated that the 2017 budget establishes a position of counsel to the Council, an city attorney who works exclusively with the Common Council. This is an interesting bit of history repeating itself. Back in 2003, it was believed that a referendum was required to make the job of mayor a full-time position. That referendum failed. So, the next year the BEA, with the Council's approval, raised the mayor's annual salary to $60,000, effectively making the position full time on the assumption that someone making $60,000 as the mayor of Hudson wouldn't need to have another job. (The mayor's salary has since been reduced to $45,000 a year.) Similarly, in 2006, it was believed that a referendum was required to have a city attorney who worked exclusively with the Common Council. There was such referendum, and it failed. Now it seems, like the redefinition of the mayor's position, this can be accomplished by simply writing it into the budget.

Among the contingencies included in the 2017 budget is $100,000 for legal fees needed to defend the City against a possible lawsuit over the weighted voting system, but since the Fair & Equal proposition passed on Tuesday, that $100,000 won't be needed. The mayor also indicated that the contract with Viridian, entered into with much fanfare by Mayor William Hallenbeck in May 2013, had been terminated in July 2016, "resulting in significant savings for the remainder of the year and going forward." The contract originally had a "teaser rate," but the rates have since jumped significantly, and the City has been overpaying. 

The 2017 budget includes the following anticipated revenue increases, based on trends:
  • 4.5 percent ($60,000) increase in sales tax revenue
  • $10,000 increase in utility tax revenue
  • $10,000 increase in Amtrak parking lot permit fees
  • $35,000 increase in building permit fees
  • $90,000 increase in mortgage fees
The complete proposed budget for 2017 can be viewed here.

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