The budget for 2018 presented to the Council last night by Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton sees a 5.45 percent overall increase in spending. The biggest increases--aside from the City's contribution to Hudson Area Library, which will more than double from $120,000 to $250,000--are for the Youth Department, which will see a 41.2 percent increase, and Law/Attorney, which will increase 46.1 percent from last year to cover the anticipated costs of ongoing litigation. There will also be a 14.1 percent increase in the budget for animal control to fund an animal enumeration project, intended to ensure dog owners' compliance with local licensing requirements.
Some departments will see a decrease in their budgets, the greatest being a 47.4 percent decrease for the Senior Center, because the City will no longer have to pay the Galvan Foundation $50,000 a year, as it has in 2016 and 2017, for outfitting the space in Galvan Armory.
The proposed budget also raises the mayor's salary from $45,000 to $60,000, the level it was in 2005. Hamilton explained that the mayor's salary had been "adjusted in prior years to accommodate pension requirements." She also made the point that the mayor, who is the chief executive officer for the City, is paid less than any other department head, as illustrated by this bar graph.
The increase would make the mayor's salary about equal to the treasurer's salary, which is $60,148.
Rector, the mayor elect who is now an alderman, said of the proposed salary increase, "This is very awkward for me," and stated his intention of recusing himself from the vote on the budget.
The presentation of the budget concluded with the following bullet points, which present "The Big Picture."
- While many think the tax cap is 2%, the maximum allowable annual tax cap is actually determined using a complex, multi-step calculation. The maximum allowable increase for 2018 is 5%, but we are pleased to present the Council with a 3% ($149,017) increase, while still providing significant improvements across City departments.
- $408,554 is taken from the fund balance to achieve a balanced budget.
- Year-over-year expenditures are increasing 5.45%, versus a 2.52% increase last year.
- Total expenditures are increasing by $577,100 from $10,588,605 to $11,165,715.
- In addition to identifying cost savings in various departments, we are able to keep the tax increase low with the following anticipated revenue increases (based on trends and the newly enacted lodging tax):
- $100,000 increase in sales tax revenue
- $10,000 increase in Planning Board fees
- $30,000 increase in Amtrak parking lot permit fees
- $10,000 increase in building permit fees
- $240,000 in lodging tax revenue and $7,000 in lodging tax registration fees (note that half of the lodging tax revenue will be added to the City's general fund, and the other half set aside for use by the Tourism Board to promote and market tourism)
- In every department and for every building, utilities costs are decreased to reflect the downward trend we saw in 2017 as a result of cancellation of all Viridian contracts.
Audience member Steve Dunn questioned why money was being taken from the fund balance in order to balance the budget, suggesting that doing so was not sustainable. Treasurer Heather Campbell explained that the City now has a policy in place to control how much needs to be in the fund balance to ensure that the City is neither putting itself in fiscal jeopardy nor taking more from taxpayers than is necessary. She pointed out that the fund balance is now higher than it needs to be, and taking $408,554 from the fund balance will put it back within the parameters.
There will be a public hearing on the budget on Monday, November 13, at 5:30, at City Hall. Prior to the hearing, all budget documents will be available online at the City of Hudson website. There will also be link on the website to the budget data presented in OpenGov.
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