Hudson's proposed budget includes tax increase

Jun. 13, 2013 @ 08:44 PM

The Town of Hudson’s proposed 2013-14 budget includes a two-cent increase in the property tax rate and an increase in the sanitation fee for residents and commercial businesses, but no other fee or tax increases and no cuts to services.

If the proposed budget passes, the property tax rate will rise from 37 to 39 cents for every $100 of value.

The town would also raise its annual sanitation fee from $2.50 to $5 for residents and businesses within the town limits. That would help cover the increasing cost of sanitation collection, Town Manager Rebecca Bentley said.

Both increases are necessary in part because the town has, since around 2000, relied on its reserves to balance the budget, Bentley said.

“There comes a point where you just can’t continue to do that,” she said. “It’s not a bottomless pit, and we have to be prudent and responsible and have enough reserves on hand to make up for any shortfalls that might happen. If we lost a major industry, that would be a huge blow to our budget.”

The town’s total budget increased by 1 percent, from $2.373 million in 2012-13 to about $2.398 million in 2013-14. Like many North Carolina municipalities, Hudson will face increased expenses against the backdrop of a still-sluggish economy, along with uncertainty about how state tax reform could affect municipal revenue. Some proposals still under consideration in Raleigh would seriously cut some revenue for many cities and towns.

The town has scheduled a public hearing on the 2013-14 budget for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., but the town’s board of commissioners may not vote that night, Bentley said. It all depends on what happens in Raleigh.

The City of Lenoir also delayed a vote on its 2013-14 budget on June 4, citing concern about tax reform measures being discussed by the General Assembly.

Hudson doesn’t share all of Lenoir’s worries – Hudson doesn’t collect revenue from privilege licenses, for example. But proposed changes to sales tax refunds and the North Carolina franchise tax would put a dent in the budget.

“If the legislature has settled their budget, and if I have a pretty good handle on how that’s going to affect our budget, then I will go ahead and recommend the adoption of this one” on Tuesday, Bentley said. “If, on the other hand, they’re still out, then we may postpone our adoption until closer toward the end of the month.”

The town is required to adopt its budget by July 1.

The town will also face increased employer retirement contributions. But town employees will see reduced health insurance coverage, due to increased costs for employee coverage from Blue Cross & Blue Shield. Reduced coverage was necessary to keep an increase in premium costs paid by the town to about 4 percent, Bentley said.

Capital expenditures will be kept low; the current budget allows for a total of $111,000 for a handful of projects: purchased and leased computer equipment, an annual lease payment for three patrol vehicles, a new scanner, and two in-car video cameras for the Hudson Police; an all-terrain vehicle for the recreation department; sidewalk construction on Mount Herman Road and a new pickup truck for road maintenance.

The town will also spend $40,000 as its contribution to the Caldwell County Sales Tax Reinvestment Program, and will put $86,490 toward the remaining $300,000 balance on a loan taken out for construction of the recreation center.

The coming fiscal year also will be the fifth year in which the members of the town’s board of commissioners have voted to donate their services to the town. Previously, town officials received small salaries based on the number of meetings attended: Around $100 a month for the mayor, and around $50 a month for commissioners.

But commissioners voted five years ago to stop receiving salaries, and in each subsequent year the board has done the same.

The Town of Hudson’s proposed budget is available for public review at Hudson Town Hall during regular business hours, or on the town’s website. To view the budget online, visit www.ci.hudson.nc.us and click “Budget Message 2013-2014” in the left sidebar.