Tax freeze for Hudson in 2021
By Nick Zacharias
PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS
Even with taxes frozen, Hudson’s 2021 budget includes over $3 million for road work and puts to paper $670,000 over three years to begin plans to rehabilitate the Pine Lake dam, which councils have been talking about since it cracked, allowing the artificial lake to drain away six and a half years ago.
While the presentation of Hudson’s budget for 2021 was done online, the relief for those watching the live stream can be imagined as Mayor Jamie Nicholls and Treasurer and Director of Finance Pierre Charron announced a net zero increase in residential property taxes for 2021. They also explained some unexpected windfalls leaving the town with a $1.65 million surplus in 2020, and outlined medium- and longer-term budget plans for the coming three years. Said Nicholls, “We have great news to present to Hudsonites tonight and I’m very excited to share the plans for 2021.”
COVID-19 tax relief
Residential property owners will pay the same taxes in 2021 as they did in 2020. Charron and Nicholls explained: council lowered the mill rate for 2020, effectively lowering taxes, with the caveat that they would bring online increases for services in 2021 to better reflect individual use and make the system fairer. The predicted increases have come, but council this year decided to provide one-time relief by offsetting the service increases while holding the mill rate at the 2020 level, so homeowners’ tax bills will remain unchanged for next year.
“We’re having a COVID tax freeze,” said Nicholls.
They also announced a tax cut for area businesses to the tune of 25 per cent, offering much-needed relief for local business owners who’ve struggled under the stresses of the pandemic.
The surplus of $1.65 million over projections for 2020 can be explained by several impacts that came with the pandemic. There was a $500,000 COVID-19 subsidy that came from the province, and a combined savings of roughly $783,000 on programs and activities that did not take place due to COVID-19 restrictions. A sizeable portion of this windfall went to cover unforeseen costs such as personal protective equipment and increased spending on public security, as well as unplanned overages for roads in the area of $757,000.
The other major shift from the 2020 budget was a surprise gain of over $1 million above plan on one-time welcome taxes for new residents, as more people than usual relocated to Hudson – many surmise as a consequence of people wanting to leave larger urban centres due to COVID-19. Said Nicholls, “The real estate market in Hudson is on fire.”
Building a new town hall
Some of the most significant expenses going into 2021 and beyond include $1.75 million for provincial police services, $853,000 in payments to feed the MRC and the CMM, and $675,000 in maintenance and repairs. The town has forecasted $3.125 million in capital expenditures for roads/parks and green spaces, though a more detailed slide revealed that none of that money was actually earmarked for parks in 2021. Nicholls assured those watching that there would once again be money for green spaces in 2022; he later clarified that the last master plan for parks was done in 2008 and they want to properly study requirements before proceeding.
Further down the road, council announced they would be investing large sums over several years to build a new town hall, and apportioned $670,000 over the next three years to finance the Pine Lake rehabilitation efforts that have been promised since before the last election three years ago. Said Nicholls, “We’re waiting on approvals and a subsidy from the Ministry of the Environment, then we can work on plans and details.” There is also a line for $265,000 to repair the community pool building, which was supposed to happen last summer while the pool was closed to the public, but didn’t. “Council’s orientation is to have the repairs completed in the spring, so that hopefully we will be able to open next summer,” said Nicholls in a call after the presentation. He confirmed that the previously announced investment in a new online booking system should help with that goal.
After confirming that the full detailed report of the 2021 budget would be posted on the town’s website shortly and finalizing votes on some housekeeping matters, Nicholls closed the special meeting by saying that while 2020 was a difficult year for everyone, he wanted to wish all the citizens of Hudson happy holidays and a happy and brighter new year.