Friday, April 30, 2021

The City Has More Money Than We Thought

Earlier today, Mayor Kamal Johnson issued this press release:

The City of Hudson Announces 
$1.6 million-dollar additional funds
The City of Hudson has a $2.5 million-dollar unassigned fund balance, according to April report from the City Treasurer. That's $1.6 million more than $900,000 estimate the Treasurer gave in the prior month.
Significant savings were realized through spending decreases. Actual expenses were $1.0 million lower than budget, and significantly below forecast. In August of 2020 the Mayor asked all departments to create a spending reduction plan and issued an executive order that all expenditures $1000 or over had to be approved by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment (BEA). This led to savings beyond what the Treasurer's office anticipated.
Furthermore, the City's sales tax revenue was greater than the April 12 report anticipated. By approximately $150 thousand. Studies have shown that cash assistance to people with low and moderate incomes stimulates the economy because people spend the money locally and immediately on essential services or use it to start small businesses. State and federal programs like increased unemployment assistance and stimulus checks added more money to the economy. Furthermore, the city started a universal basic income pilot program.
"Fourth quarter sales tax was the second highest on record, and is a good indicator of overall economic health," says City Treasurer Heather Campbell.
The city also participated and led several programs to support businesses. This included the Shared Streets program, The Berkshire Continuity Fund, the Galvan MWBE [Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises] Fund, and Tourism Board grants.
Prioritizing public health is also a key to a functioning economy. The city took consistent measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus and reduce its impacts on our community. This includes the Hudson Safe campaign and the distribution of essential supplies.
While the pandemic has reduced tourism and hospitality economy, Hudson received more funds in lodging tax than previously anticipated. Ending the year strong with over $220 thousand in lodging tax revenue. "It was extremely encouraging to see lodging tax rebound, since it also bodes well for local businesses," says Campbell.
In addition, the previous report had a miscalculation where some allocations were counted twice, so that it appeared that less money was available than there really was.
Throughout the pandemic, the city sought to reduce expenses but prioritized our employees.
"Our employees provide essential services that our residents, businesses, and visitors need,"  says Mayor Kamal Johnson. "Every department contributes to our city's safety and prosperity. During the pandemic, we needed our employees more than ever."
Due to the financial burdens put on citizens in previous years the city did not raise property taxes.
"Given the fiscal difficulties residents struggled with this past year, we avoided adding to their financial burden," says Common Council President Tom DePietro.
"The adjusted financials do not include any of our Federal or State Relief funds, the relief funds will make it possible to continue important projects and initiatives."
The city anticipates additional Federal relief from the American Rescue Act of $667 thousand, payable over the next two years.  
The news from the mayor's office prompted Michael Hofmann, who is challenging Heather Campbell to become city treasurer, to issue his own press release, which criticizes Campbell for double-counting assigned funds, an error she discovered while working on mandated reporting for New York State. The press release asserts, "An inaccuracy of this scale is a massive breach in public trust." Hofmann is quoted in the press release as saying, "Ms. Campbell has been quoting a wildly off-base number for our unassigned fund balance for months. That has real ramifications for our city. It has affected the way issues are considered and problems are solved." Hofmann also claims, "Ms. Campbell's original prediction was even weaponized among some circles as 'evidence' of mismanagement by other city officials and employees." The press release ends with an appeal from Hofmann, who seeks to be the city treasurer, "We need to use this chance to transform our treasury into an active participant in the health, equity, vibrancy, and long-term success of our community."


  1. I've worked side by side with Heather Campbell. She is incredibly astute, meticulous about her work, and genuinely cares about the financial health anf sustainability of the city. Everyone makes mistakes. Rarely has Heather been off, and I applaud her transparency and her personal accountability. I don't know her opponent, other than a cursory review of his background and what little I've heard and read about him. I *do* know that Heather went to Wharton, that she has decades of relevant experience dating way back to her days as a founding member of iVillage, that she has faithfully served the City with unwavering diligence for almost a decade, and she continues to stay on in her role as Treasurer despite constant criticism and a salary that is about a quarter of what she could be earning elsewhere given her experience and track record. I am suspicious of someone who says he will run a clean campaign who then jumps at the first opportunity to use one unfortunate mistake as campaign leverage.

    1. Hi Tiffany - Michael Hofmann here. I remain committed to running a clean campaign. Challenging an incumbent for mistakes on the job is not playing 'dirty,' it's public accountability. Hudson has a right to know who they're voting for. If you feel you don't know enough about my qualifications, plans, or values from my website, feel free to write me at and we can schedule a time to meet and talk. To that end, I also hope that Heather agrees to join me for a 'meet-the-candidates' event hosted by the Hudson City Democratic Committee, which they discussed at their meeting this past Tuesday.

    2. Given his lack of credentials or meaningful specifics (and campaign talking points that sound vaguely progressive with nothing of substance behind them) I'm deeply suspicious of her opponent as well.

      Heather is a consummate professional with a wealth of technical experience, the former quality much lacking in other citywide officials and the latter an absolute necessity in the Treasurer's office.

    3. To Mr. Hoffman:
      "We need to use this chance to transform our treasury into an active participant in the health, equity, vibrancy, and long-term success of our community."
      We already have this with our current treasurer. She and her office have consistently been a bright spot in our city government. In the 10 plus years that I have lived here, I have only had positive experiences with her and her office. Now transforming some of the other city offices/councils -- that might be worth considering

  2. Looks like it's time for an independent audit.

  3. This last year, working with B2B companies, many of them are making adjustments for numerous reasons. The amount of legislation; change and upheaval the pandemic has caused is all businesses and municipalities is immense.

    Our Treasurer is not just one role, it's also our CFO and our controller - of which most companies and municipalities have the roles divided out. The Treasurer's role is incredibly complicated outside of a pandemic and Heather has been a true professional in her tenure with the city during three different 4 different administrations and that consistency has really been important for Hudson.

    I find that Mr. Hofmann's comments on the Mayor's press release to be an attack without merit. in politics, we see unqualified men trying to take out incredibly qualified women. To overreact so dramatically in unprecedented times is exactly the message we do NOT need to be sending to our residents.

    Now is not the time for someone to enter the role of the Treasurer, in a pandemic, while learning on the job. We need the steadfast experience that Heather has to offer.

    And regarding audits- you can go to the city's website and pull the independent audits done by outside accounting firms any time you'd like. The audited financials are reviewed on an annual basis in the finance committee and available to anyone who wants to read them.

    1. Mr. Bujan, combining your own perception of my qualifications and my gender to make the assumption that our campaign is participating in an oppressive patriarchal political history on women signals to me that you have no interest in understanding who I am or what I value. As I commented to Tiffany above, feel free to reach out to me and we can find a time to talk.

      And on the audits: when I reviewed the 2019 audited financial statement I noticed there are issues - a lack of detailed accounting in pension liabilities and capital assets – which to my knowledge have yet to be a subject of discussion among city leadership. There's also our lack of a popular annual financial report, which is a widely accepted best-practice that promotes accessibility and transparency of our finances for the general public. I could go on - this fund balance error is not the only issue that needs public discourse and remediation.

    2. Hahahahahahaha — ok, but that was supposed to be funny, right?

      If Mr Hoffman understood that the state comptroller’s office manages the City’s pension funds (not the City treasurer) and reports on it comprehensively ... see, that’s not funny.

    3. Mr. Friedman, page 2 of the independent auditor's report on the 2019 financial statement describes their adverse opinion as follows:

      "... management has not recorded other postemployment benefits (OPEB), capital assets and general infrastructure assets in governmental activities and, accordingly, has not recorded employee benefits or depreciation expense. Accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America require that capital assets and general infrastructure assets be capitalized and depreciated over their estimated useful lives and OPEB obligations be accrued and related expenses recognized, which would increase assets and liabilities, change net position, and increase expenses of the governmental activities. The amount by which this departure would affect the assets and liabilities, net position, and expenses of the governmental activities has not been determined.”

      “In our opinion, because of the significance of the matters discussed in the Basis for Adverse Opinion on Governmental Activities paragraph, the financial statements referred to above do not present fairly the financial position of the governmental activities of the City, as of December 31, 2019, or the changes in financial position thereof for the year then ended in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America."


    4. Mr. Hoffman, thanks for making my point: the treasurer’s activities are overseen by, and under the control of, the state. If the state thought there was anything more than an accounting error it would step in (with charges) as they’ve done in many municipalities. The treasurer doesn’t get to do what they want with the numbers anymore than any public entity’s comptroller can: state law and GAAP control, not their “wokeness” or any other ideology they may cleave to. Just ask Donald Trump’s former CFO who is about to cave or face charges.

  4. I agree with Tiffany in her assessment of Heather’s skills, abilities and the nature of her work.

    Mr. Hoffman, whom I’ve never seen in any Hudson business or about town and whom I know nothing, proves through his press release that he has no functional knowledge of either muni finance nor the specifics of Hudson’s fiscal history and laudatory work of our present and immediately-preceding treasurers. And now I think I know enough about Mr Hoffman to cease considering him a viable treasurer. He’s just another attention-seeking politician.

  5. Michael's statement shouldn't be construed as a "dirty" attack. This was nothing more than a criticism of an action. I'm not about to rake someone over the coals for pointing out how they may have done something differently. Personally, I'd love to have an open and honest dialog with both of them. After all, Heather is a political figure as well.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. The treasurer isn’t a political position. It’s a financial role guided by the relevant statutes and rules promulgated by the state. The same is true of NYS judges: they’re elected but their positions and roles aren’t political.

    1. If you elect someone then that's "political."

      An elected judge is not safely apolitical, otherwise there'd be no reason to give SCOTUS justices lifetime appointments.

      Your definition of "political" sounds so authoritative, but it's the usual sophistry.

    2. Following your drunken logic, all judges should have lifetime appointments. Sounds stupid because it is.

  7. The Hudson Safe campaign was funded by Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation’s Columbia County Emergency Fund.

  8. Michael, your responses are rather telling. Not to split hairs, but addressing me as "Tiffany" in your response as if we're BFFs, then later to Rob as "Mr. Bujan" - while subtle - speaks volumes, especially given your statement about your campaign not participating in "an oppressive patriarchal political history on women." Since equity is important to you, it might've been more appropriate to refer to me as "Ms. Martin" or perhaps even "Mayor Martin." I'm not into formalities and always encouraged people to not call me "Mayor" because it felt embarrassing and kind of silly (after all, it was I who worked for them as their public servant). Nonetheless, I feel the disparity warrants mentioning.

    As for public accountability, it appears that the Treasurer was quite forthright upon discovering her error. Further, Mayor Johnson's press release served as sufficient notice to Hudson's voters.

    I get it: politics is a blood sport (one that Hudson takes very seriously). Public service is not. In fact, it is an incredible honor to serve the public -- an honor to be accepted with humility. Heather Campbell has been a faithful and humble public servant who has consistently proven her competence and deep sense of fiscal responsibility throughout her tenure as Treasurer.

    I don't have any questions for you, but I appreciate your offer to schedule some time to meet and talk. When we inevitably run into each other wherever, feel free to call me "Tiff." To be clear, the last sentence in my comment above was not a personal attack on you, but rather an observation (and an obvious one at that if you do indeed, which I hope you do, intend to run a smear-free campaign).

    1. Ms. Martin (if I may) - thank you for pointing this out. You are completely right to note this disparity in how I addressed you, and I apologize for my error.

  9. I like how the press release totally ignores how a healthier than expected fall/winter tourism season helped bring in revenue. Stimulus and government cash for families in need probably goes towards things like rent, or buying groceries in big box stores in Greenport, not spent on Warren St. Also, I find it ironic to celebrate the increased lodging tax after killing the golden goose of Airbnb. Let’s check back on those numbers when the full ban goes in effect and those places get sold off, or keep renting underground, thus avoid the tax. Or, should we expect the taxes from the Galvan Hotel to make up the difference? I won’t hold my breath.

    Also, I haven’t been here too long, but it seems to me that the current treasurer is one of the few competent electeds in city hall. When it comes to local government, I think it’s more important to actually have skills in administration and management, rather than being woke. And this is coming from a liberal. Save the revolution for your Twitter buddies and Congress. A small city needs to make sure the bills are paid and the current services are kept afloat.

  10. Public officials should be commended for reviewing their own work, and reporting any discrepancies they find. Shaming them for being diligent and accountable would just discourage disclosure.

    Some years ago, there was a deputy at the Board of Elections who had difficulty with computers. Instead of explaining the problem and asking for help, she hid it by manually changing spreadsheets of election results. Eventually she was fired when the cover-up was discovered.

    So, props to Campbell for reviewing her own work and immediately reporting the news — good news, as it turns out. (Better an estimate that was too low than too high.)