Stop them before they spend again!

duffs-corners
Is it just me, or has Hudson’s council lost touch with reality?

Would that Hudson’s Mayor Ed Prévost’s fondness for invoking Donald Trump have extended to the U.S. President-elect’s professed concern for the overburdened middle class. Prévost oversaw the adoption of a $13.2 million 2017 budget Wednesday evening, a 9.4  percent increase over last year’s record $12 million exercise.

Most of the 60 or so residents in the hall appeared stunned before giving vent to their frustration and bafflement at the magnitude of the increase, given this administration’s comments over the past several months hinting at a surplus. Many showed up hoping for a tax freeze; instead, the tax-and-tariff burden on the hypothetical average Hudson home with a valuation of $400,000 will increase by about $200 or approximately 5 per cent.

Because next year’s budget is based on a new valuation roll, sectors of town which have seen significant real estate activity will see their evaluations – and their taxes – increase by as much as 30 per cent.

Residents didn’t take kindly to this administration’s tax-and-spend budget. Councillor Ron Goldenberg noted operating costs were down 4 per cent and said the budgeteers had whacked a million dollars from the first draft. It was all in vain, especially after council went on to announce the hiring of  a full-time grants-and-subsidies chaser for $100,000 and a full-time culture and communications director.

Intense questioning pried loose the revelation that the town, with a population of just over 5,100, now employs more than 140 full and part-time employees. Of those, 36 are full time employees, although an oblique reference to disciplinary measures in regards to Employee 647 suggests another of a previous administration’s hires is caught in Hudson town hall’s deadly revolving door.

Administrative costs will rise by another 20 per cent next year to just under $2 million. Public security costs skyrocket by a whopping 65 per cent to just under $2.5 million. Conversely, four budget items shrank from last year – public works, public transportation, urban planning/economic development and financing costs.

To be fair, some of next year’s big numbers reflect bookkeeping changes – understandable given that this budget was prepared without the assistance of former treasurer Serge Raymond, the town’s fourth in three years.

And there was good news. The town starts 2017 with $23.4 million in long-term debt, down significantly from the $32.5 million the town owed back in 2013. Clearly, this has been the biggest single accomplishment of the Prévost administration. Ditto the announcement of an eight-year contract with town employees, retroactive to 2014 when the last collective agreement expired.

But residents weren’t in the mood to cheer, especially when they were presented with this administration’s 2017-2019 PTI, or capital investment plan, a wish list of projects with a $9.9 million price tag. Some, like a newwell to relieve pressure on the town’s current drinking water sources, are seen as inevitable, although many residents still can’t understand why the town doesn’t consider drawing water from the Lake of Two Mountains. Other projects on the wish list, like a skate park and an arts centre, aren’t seen as priorities when the town’s streets and sidewalks are disintegrating. It was revealed this would be the third time the town has invested in a skate park only to see it unused.

At one point during the PTI discussion, Goldenberg let it slip the town would be installing water meters in the town’s businesses, which collectively represent barely 4 per cent of the town’s total tax revenue. Businesses already pay the lion’s share of the bill for water and sewerage according to a tariff structure unrelated to how much water a business consumes. This blurt led to an animated discussion of Goldenberg’s promise to businesses that a sampling of residences would also be metered to give everyone a better idea of the residence/business water consumption ratio. As tempers flared, town manager Jean-Pierre Roy told one business owner that not only would businesses be forced to install meters, but they would foot the bill for the installation and hiring of the meter reader.

The crowd thinned as the back-to-back budget meetings dragged on for more than three hours with only the occasional outburst to snap people awake. One such moment came during a routine zoning-bylaw presentation, when former mayor Liz Corker suggested the town should demand more greenspace from Hudson Valleys developer Daniel Rodrigue in return for the right to rezone lots on Mayfair to allow semi-detached housing. Rodrigue loudly insisted he’s given far more than he was required to do and countered by referring to the circumstances under which one of Corker’s properties was developed during her time as mayor.  It was like watching two members of a dysfunctional family venting in public; those who knew the back stories stared at the floor while those that didn’t watched in bewilderment.

Somehow, the discussion morphed into a debate about Hudson’s unenforced leash laws. Rodrigue’s development is bordered by the Gary Cirko Trail, where dog owners from as far away as the West Island come to exercise their animals on the public trail network. Before council voted on the proposal’s first reading, a succession of residents challenged the zoning procedure, questioned the town’s motives in presenting the requested change (by law, the town must) and voiced concern that a project good for the town might be killed because Hudson doesn’t enforce its leash laws.

Best comment of the evening: Trevor Smith, who asked council whether they had ever considered cutting expenses to the bone and giving back to residents in the form of a tax break. Smith didn’t wait for an answer but he got one anyway: smirks from a couple of those at the front of the room. It’s pretty obvious this administration won’t stop spending until they’re booted out of office next November.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Stop them before they spend again!

  1. No one replied to you yet Jim? Lying here with my massive indigestion.. from food.. I guess prompts me to do so. I like your thoughts on drawing water from the lake of two mountains, but I feel the need to say… The cost of the development, infrastructure, buildings that would necessitate that would cost Hudson a medium fortune. It would require building at least another building, most likely on wharf, pipes into the lake.. let’s not picture this like a tanker truck sucking water from the lake. This is serious sophisticated business. I feel that if people are going to jump up and down for 100,000$.. a water project like this would easily cost 10 to 15 million.

    That’ll sure cut into the imaginary funds allocated to purchase sandy beach.

    That’s another topic I want to out to bed.. the purchasing of Sandy Beach. I’ve sort of done an about face. I would like the town to hold a referendum that this group so desires, although I question the legality of it, and enter into this contract.. as I keep hearing the terms “there is massive interest in this petition”; if less then 25% of the eligible voters participate in the referendum, the total cost of the referendum be pinned on this group. If they don’t sign, no referendum. If more people participate then said percentage, well, Hudson will have to swallow that referendum cost.

    I still don’t know where 16 million would come from.

    I’m going to defend the town when it comes to the number of employees and would also say that the people who questioned the number of employees have never read a collective agreement or have any experience in a syndicated environment. Sorry to say- no one can just simply “not pick up garbage” one day, and sit and decide to work on grants the next. Everyone has a job description, everyone functions within the regulations of their job description. Someone who picks up dead skunks off of main road one day, is not processing tax payments received the next day. Theres at least 10 union violations that immediately jump to mind with that.

    As for the Corker feud, her question was lined with gun powder.. it was a deliberate attempt to set him off, which it did. AND I TOO.. want to know the answer in regards to her permit to expand before the installation of the sewer system. I remember quite well Churasco chicken was denied when they opened an inside portion of sitting down nor the right to expand based solely on the fact there were no sewer systems installed. I’ve been waiting almost 10 years for an answer to that.

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    1. To address your points, Kevin:
      Take the time to read my previous posts on the potable water issue. (Put water on the Table is essential reading) I make the point that Hudson should propose a regional waterworks to supply itself as well as its thirsty neighbours – Vaudreuil with its boil water woes and strict usage regs, St Lazare with its chronic low pressure and summer shortage, Rigaud’s overpriced Raquette well connection to our west end. Prior to replacing streets and replacing sidewalks in the core, Hudson can connect the 35 percent of eligible sewer addresses who still haven’t connected and bill it back to them. Then the town can get on with making the downtown look a little less like Ponoka, Alberta.
      Employees and collective agreements:
      I agree we can’t force public employees to multitask (that is a private-sector ability because we have to) but I would like to see the town thinking harder before adding job descriptions invented by the bureaucracy. We’ve lost too many good people to burnout (treasurer Serge Raymond being the latest) because the powers that be didn’t give them the help and support staff they needed until it was too late. Yet they seem to have no trouble inventing new positions to perform tasks I see as well within the purview of the current payroll and our mayor and council.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Agree with Kevin on Liz Corker’s question on what the Town would get out of a zoning change for Mr. Rodrigue. Her implication that more parkland was due was erroneous and provocative but the question should have been anticipated and addressed by Nathalie Lavoie in her subdivision summation prior to Mr. Rodrigue’s presentation. That is within her job description and was a shortcoming on her part and by extension the administation. Parkland 10% obligations are based on land areas and Mr. Rodrigue turned over the required amount when the original subdivision was enacted back some 15 yrs. ago. No new land area was created with this recent request for subdivision so alas no more parkland . Should we feel concerned about this we probably should be looking at parkland dedication areas as a function of population and not land area , something I’m sure our urban planning dept. has never considered. Planning is not their strong suit.

      Liked by 2 people

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