I daresay it’s futile to compare municipal budgets, but here goes. On Tuesday, St. Lazare adopted its 2017 budget. Our neighbour, with a population of in excess of 20,000, will spend $28,375,500 next year. The average St. Lazare home, valued at $370,000, will cost its owner 1.26 per cent more next year in taxes. As Mayor Robert Grimaudo points out, this is less than Canada’s inflation rate.
It’s good but it’s not the best. Earlier this month, Vaudreuil-Dorion, with a population of close to 45,000, adopted a $72 million budget. Nine times Hudson’s population, six times the budget. The average home, evaluated at $309,700, saw its taxes go up by half a percent. That’s a $7 increase.
Oh yeah. Vaudreuil-Dorion has that massive commercial core (where I see most Hudsonites doing their shopping). It has those industrial parks, that monstrous tax base, that population. Sometimes, when I hear Hudson folks running Vaudreuil-Dorion down, I wonder whether they’re talking about the same place. I find Vaudreuil-Dorion an exciting, even beautiful city. It may lack trees and dog runs, but it more than makes up for the shortage of natural settings with its energy and vitality – and above all, the dedication of its mayors Réjean Boyer and Guy Pilon and their respective councils to the concept of a 10, 20, 30-year game plan.
St. Lazare may not have Vaudreuil-Dorion’s tax base but it has learned over the years to manage its cash flow (http://ville.saint-lazare.qc.ca/budget). The new city hall going up across from the sports complex won’t figure in the 2017 tax bills, but the $3.8 million in subsidies for the new firehall and community facilities will lighten the burden. The resurgence in the real estate market has generated welcome taxes to defray the cost of new sanitary and storm sewers, aqueducts and beefed-up public security. There’s cash for repaving streets and building bike paths to meet the demands of a young, active population (the city’s eighth school is nearing completion). If St. Lazare was a family, we’d say they were living within their means.
Here’s another number to compare: This year’s St. Lazare recreation department budget is a little less than $4.5 million. Hudson, which marries recreation and culture, will spend slightly more than $1.5 million. I know I’m comparing ants and aardvarks, but I just can’t help pointing out that spending doesn’t guarantee quality.
What does Hudson have that St. Lazare and Vaudreuil-Dorion don’t? Our region’s only English-language high school. Bilingual status. A spectacular waterfront with a view that millionaires crave. A compact town centre where everything is within walking distance. World-class entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Venerable clubs.
So here’s my question: Why is Hudson not doing a better job of marketing to the world? From the little I’ve seen, Hudson isn’t getting much bang for its buck. Craft fairs, hired celebrities, improvised parades and garage sales don’t cut it. It’s time for some new thinking – and that doesn’t mean record budgets. Even if you’ve got the money those days are done.