Rewrite!

The Town of Hudson will table a revised 2017 budget as soon as possible after discovering it had understated this year’s tax increase by two thirds. 

A subdued Ron Goldenberg, the councillor responsible for fiscal policy, told tonight’s January council meeting they had used the wrong mil rate for 2016. Instead of the average 1.6% increase he had quoted to reporters, Hudson taxpayers face an average 4.9% increase before tariffs – exactly what I predicted in my blog Hudson’s true tax load, published a week ago.

Goldenberg and mayor Ed Prevost said it was an honest mistake, but it means the town will have to find ways to slash in the budget adopted Dec. 21. It puts the town in a quandary, especially with a long list of organizations already having received assurances they’ll be receiving municipal grants. There was some indication of that tonight when resident Trevor Smith asked why the list of recipients and the amounts they’ll receive hasn’t been released even though the announcement was made at that same Dec. 21 meeting.

Once letters go out to hopeful recipients the amounts of the grants will be made public, councillor Barbara Robinson replied. Recipients include the Hudson Village Theatre, Greenwood, the music festival, St Patrick’s Parade and more.

Goldenberg confirmed the revised budget will tax those whose properties are located on the sewer system who have never paid sewer taxes because they never connected. Some 250 doors, roughly a third of the eligible total, haven’t paid sewer taxes and tariffs since the system came on line nearly 10 years ago.

Following the meeting I asked Goldenberg when residents could expect the revised budget. He said he was hoping to get it done in time for the February council meeting.

It also came out that the town faced a potentially critical water shortage following the Jan. 4 fire in the town’s Como sector. A mother and her two daughters escaped with their lives after being rescued by a passing Hydro Quebec crew. Town DG J.P. Roy told resident Richard Rothschild the combination of the fire and four leaks in the system together significantly lowered the town’s water reserves. Rothschild noted the town would have been in serious trouble, had there been another fire in town. Roy said later that while the level was of concern, the town never faced an emergency situation. 

More to come once I’ve listened to the tape and gone through my notes.

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15 thoughts on “Rewrite!

  1. Jim, thanks for your diligence on these issues.

    Using the wrong mil rate for 2016 when announcing tax increases in the broader press is embarrassing to a town that’s struggled to find a belief in our fiscal positions. It’s inexcusable, as is rejigging a budget on the fly at the last minute because a Council didn’t fully understand what they were approving.

    Without fees for sewers regardless of connection status, there is no real incentive to connect and reach the goals of the sewer system and improve the environment. Corker’s administration recognized this, negotiated with citizens to avoid a hard required connection and stated it in public meetings several times correctly and then subsequent administrations simply ignored the agreements between the citizens and the town that enable the sewer project.

    Transition administration to administration needs to improve so that legacy of decisions and directions carries on.

    Water remains one of your focus points and Hudson’s number one problem, clearly recognized in the Corker, Elliott/Piacente days, and also at the beginning of the Prevost term which put forth an agressive expansion plan. It takes several years to find, build, qualify and connect public water, and we’ve made very little progress in the past three years. No new water, no new development will become the only choice soon.

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    1. Time to fix pine lake and draw from that.

      Time to use that neglected space behind the parking lot at Thompson park and set up a pumping station there, while servicing the West end with water.

      Time to figure something out before there are two fires is one night, and the next morning people can’t flush their toilets.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The town’s deal with the collective included a clause requiring them to find their own source of water. As you are aware, that sector of town has no access to water. The collective could have run a line across Main and down to the lake, but that would have been a pricey undertaking. I understand the collective has since been offered an alternative site. I assume it has access to water.

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      2. Ironically, one of the stipulations for that collective garden project polotics93 is that there has to be a source of water. That was clear when council made the announcement. But there is no town water line there. Will they dig a well for the garden project?

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      1. Then we have to get Marcus Owen elected , because he’s the one who has been carrying on conversations with Ron Goldenberg since the Dec.21/2016 budget presentation. He saw it right away and pointed it out to them in the follow up question period the same night. In his always polite and determined manner he was the one that convinced Mr. Goldenberg to do what was right and Ron went the distance to convince a stubborn council to withdraw the budget. I believe it was an honest mistake and see nothing sinister here.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. I have been waiting to read about the December budget presentation as I had told the council that again we see an increase for 2017 of about $1 Mil over last year, and about $2 Mil since this administration has begun. (do not have my numbers in front of me) I told Ron directly that they should return to the budget and look at ways to cut cut cut. It is no surprise that the mil rate will always increase if the town budget continues the trend that it started back in 2006, when it was about $7 Mil and always increases more than inflation.
        What is discouraging is that the budget continues to rise and nothing gets done in Hudson. If all Hudson can afford to do for now is to pay the debt and its interest, then so be it. Plan to pay it down, before spending more. If $1/2 Mil has been added to the budget due to legal costs, we better replace the team that drove up that part of the budget. Nobody can afford to pay legal fees.
        I looked at the Local Journal this week, and nothing was printed about the December budget meeting. That was the evening to be written about so everyone in town could read about it, since not everyone reads this blog.
        I was in surgery on Monday Jan 16, to remove my prostate, since it was found to have cancer. I am recovering now. I was not thinking about Hudson and its meetings then.
        Today I am reflecting and asking myself, how do we solve the problems in Hudson. We write and we write as we are all frustrated. But we need to get together to fix the problems. I read Peter’s Stuck in the Muck, and it is so true.
        We need to force the issue of reducing the budget, which means reducing operating cost, which means reducing head count.
        We need to know how much it costs to treat our drinking water and know if that cost keeps increasing. We need to explain to all residents how to save water. Saving water means saving treatment costs. Do you know that a water regulating valve in your home can cut your hot water heating costs? Lower the pressure, lower the flow and save water. When the new treatment and pumping station went online, the Town warned residents that their supply pressure would increase and they might expect the pipes in there homes to knock. That increase in pressure means that overall more water is flowing in everybody’s homes and businesses (except Daren’s).
        So I will rest now, but we need to fix things.

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  2. Agree Jim, time to reign in those expenses. All the individual councillors voted in this budget, and everything in it, including all those $500,000 in legal fees. And don’t for one minute think that $120,00 0 of that is Rob Spencer’s fault. A true leader would have listened to a councillor with more experienced than himself and settled the issue way before it escalated. Look at all the expenses voted in, did even one councillor vote no? I think not. Think about that at the next election.
    The town also just signed a new collective agreement with the union. I would like to see that collective agreement, to compare it to the one our council signed previously. Names are usually not mentioned, just categories of white/blue collars and directors. Westmount used to publish theirs on their website. We have a right to know what was negotiated with the employees after all it’s taxpayers monies. Has council said they would give a copy to whoever asked? Access to information maybe?
    Jim, all the best for a speedy recovery.

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  3. Collective agreements (without individual names) are public documents that must be filed with Quebec within 60 days of signing. The Town cannot refuse to provide a copy of the document filed with the provincial government.

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    1. Thank you Veronique. When we signed the collective agreement before this one, we told the citizens how much of an increase employees got for the life of the contract. Just saying that council signed a collective agreement without giving any specifics isn’t transparent enough for me.

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