Property tax increase as Hudson Town Council approves 2016 budget
PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG
Hudson’s three year strategic plan presented by Director General Jean-Pierre during Tuesday evening’s special budget presentation prompted questions from the audience.
An average single family home in Hudson will see a property tax increase of 1.17 per cent over 2015 rates according to the information presented by Treasurer and Director of Finance Serge Raymond at the special meeting held Tuesday, December 15, at the Stephen F. Shaar Community Center. The residential tax rate for 2016 is $0.6973 per $100 of evaluation and the commercial rate is $0.7473 per $100 of evaluation. The town has decided to discontinue the business tax and replace it with a non-residential property tax charged to the property owners.
With expenses for 2016 projected at $12,053,290, Director General Jean-Pierre Roy said the increase of $61,000 in the amount paid to the Municipalité Régionale de Comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS). Repair and maintenance of infrastructure including a three-year plan to replace street signs and repair roads have also added to the increase.
Refinancing of the long-term debt was also part of the budget scenario. In 2015, debt reimbursement and capital expenditures totaled $1,213,419. The 2016 budget indicates $976,710 for the same line items. “The long term debt is not scary,” commented Mayor Ed Prévost. “We are in relatively good shape.”
DG Roy presented the three-year strategic plan for Hudson at the same meeting. The plan aims to have a $35,000 Mission Statement in place by March 2016 as the foundation for the projected expenditure of $25,422,706 over three years. Roy said not all of the projects in the strategic plan will be realized and that consulting residents is a major part of the process. The repair of the Fire Department ladder truck at $65,000 and the buy-back of rented fire trucks, at $768,806, and the construction of a new town hall for $5,825,000 are included in the total.
Proposed expenditures for the Parks and Recreation department total $1,450,000 including a $75,000 skate park, a new wharf in Jack Layton Park for $635,000, plus $60,000 for toilets in the same park and $460,000 for trails and cycling paths.
Projects for the Public Works department over the next three years are expected to total $7,492,700 including the Pine Lake dam project at $750,000, beautification of the core of Hudson for $1,275,000, and road repair resurfacing at $4,500,000.
Residents questioned some of these proposed expenditures during the question period after the presentation. Comparing the cost of a new town hall to the population of the town, resident Helen Kurgansky questioned the reasonableness of the expenditure. The mayor replied the proposal of a new town hall originated with former DG Louise Léger-Villandré and is part of the long-term plan. “We have town services spread all over the place with everyone operating out of silos,” Prévost explained. Kugansky also questioned the Pine Lake dam amount that had been rejected by the residents during a loan by-law registry. Roy said that this was the only number available attached to a value for the project. He added that an operational committee would be created during the council meeting slated for 8 p.m. to pass the budget. “We will have a step-by-step plan with a timeline for March 2016… we will not do it at any cost,” said Roy. He also indicated that the town was interested in adding value to Pine Lake for recreational use but did not elaborate on the details.
Resident Larry Gray questioned the cost of repairing the ladder truck. Roy assured him that the vehicle in question is worth repairing and explained that the work involves proper certification that was not done correctly in the past.
Marcus Owen asked for confirmation that the buy-out of leased fire trucks with a saving of $45,000 per year is better than continuing with the leasing plan. “We were told by the previous administration that leasing was the best way to go,” said Owen adding that all he wanted was an explanation of the decision. The treasurer replied that when the provincial government was asked about the purchase price of the trucks he was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was much lower than he expected. Raymond pointed out that it was cheaper to finance the purchase of the vehicles than to continue with the leases.
The proposed 2016 budget, rates and tariffs were passed during the second council meeting of the evening. Council approved the payment of $95,457.37 for payroll deductions at source that was in default of payment from 2009 to 2012. The mayor explained that since the town voluntarily reported themselves to the provincial government, there was some leniency given in the amount of time they were given to pay the arrears.
In other business, council passed a resolution creating a committee responsible for negotiating a contract with unionized employees. The previous contract expired October 28 2014. When questioned about the work done regarding the collective agreement earlier in the year by consultant Judy Sheehan, the mayor replied that her work was well done and will be used by the committee.
The loan by-laws for the purchase of fire fighting vehicles and paving and resurfacing were deferred to another council meeting.