Whatever the mayor, council and administrators tell residents at tonight’s 2017 budget adoption, the Town of Hudson’s current financial situation doesn’t justify an increase in property taxes.
Unless it’s been misrepresented.
At the end of April, former treasurer Serge Raymond prepared a document required by the Cities and Towns Act. It’s called a report on the comparative statements of revenues and expenditures. It’s the fiscal equivalent of your vehicle’s odometer, fuel economy and mileage readouts.
One of the two statements compares revenues and expenditures for the current fiscal year with those covering the same period of the previous year. The second compares actual versus forecasted revenues and expenditures for the current year.
Total revenues budgeted for 2016: $12,053,290.
Raymond’s 2016 forecast four months into the fiscal year: $12,438,740.
In other words, Raymond’s numbers – with eight months still to go — showed the town $385,450 ahead of budget projections.
On that basis, Raymond forecast a 2016 budget surplus of $307,590.
Major contributing factors: the $220,000 sale of the old medi-centre at 98 Cameron, new residential construction and better than expected home resales. No wonder this administration has made densification Job #1.
The positive revenue trend continued throughout 2016. At the October council meeting the mayor revealed welcome taxes topped $471,000 as of September, with four months still to run. (The town had budgeted $450,000 for all of 2016.)
The only bad news in Roy’s report was an $89,860 excess in expenditures over budget. He cited legal fees, business tax bad debts and an increase in the town’s public transit assessment. From what the administration has admitted since then, it’s quite possible legal costs will consume most of Roy’s projected surplus.
Nevertheless, the town’s own projections rule out a reduction in revenues as a factor in any tax increase.
We can also rule out a reduction in total valuation. As I posted in my last blog Fabrication, the global 2017 valuation is $1.184 billion, up from last year’s $1.178 billion. The value of taxable properties increased by a similar amount – from $1.107 billion to $1.114 billion. In fiscal terms both increases are negligible, so this isn’t a significant factor in the 2017 budget.
The biggest problem facing this administration in the 2017 budget is the gross and growing unfairness of the tax burden on Hudson’s commercial core.
In January, the town informed business owners it was ending the business tax and replacing it with a higher tax rate on non-residential properties. Henceforth, non-residential properties would be taxed at 75 cents per $100 compared to 70 cents per $100 for residential properties. Commercial landlords became the town’s tax collectors.
The higher tax rate would have been acceptable to most non-residential property owners but it was just the beginning of this administration’s tax grab. The 2016 budget replaced taxes with a blizzard of tariffs that bore no relationship to the actual cost of providing services. Small businesses with a single bathroom and kitchenette end up paying triple of what the owner of a typical home pays for water and waste management. The concept of user pay was evoked by this administration during the debate about water meters, but it would apply only to businesses in the sewered core.
The results of that inequity are visible throughout Hudson’s commercial core. Even the Societé de developpement commercial (SDC), created as a marketing tool for local business, has morphed into another ineffectual, unaccountable tax-grabbing arm of the town.
The solution lies in a fair and equitable tax and tariff structure based on real costs. However I have no illusions about this administration lifting a finger to assist Hudson’s struggling commercial core. This mayor and council have been successful in using arbitrary tariffs and grossly unfair tax policy to divide and conquer. After three years of this, it’s clear they feel no shame.