HUDSON — The proposed $11.2 million city budget for 2018 includes salary increases for several city departments, including the mayor, who will receive a $15,000 raise.
Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton, a representative of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, presented the budget to the Common Council on Thursday. The Council will act on a resolution on the proposed Budget at 6 p.m. on Nov. 21 in the Council Chambers at City Hall. A public hearing on the budget was held Monday.
The budget is below the state’s tax cap and will increase services, Hamilton said Thursday.
“The maximum allowable increase (for the city) in 2018 is 5 percent but we are pleased to present the Council with a 3 percent increase, or a $149,017 increase, while still providing significant improvements across city departments,” Hamilton said.
The total operating budget is increasing by 5 percent, or $577,100 – from $10,588,605 to $11,165,715. The amount to be raised by taxes is increasing from $4,967,589 to $5,116,606.
Revenue increases, such as $100,000 in sales tax revenue, a $30,000 increase in Amtrak parking lot permit fees, $240,000 in lodging tax revenue and $7,000 in lodging tax registration fees, as a result of the newly enacted lodging tax law, will help offset some of those expenditures, Hamilton said.
Officials will use $408,554 from the fund balance to balance the budget.
“At this point our fund balance is higher than what our target is,” Treasurer Heather Campbell said.Increases and Decreases
The budget’s biggest increase is the 46.1 percent hike in the law/attorney portion, which reflects the $50,000 in attorney’s fees to cover anticipated costs of ongoing litigation.
The Youth Department will see the second highest increase at 41.2 percent. The department will have a full-time director, clerk and recreational attendant. The budget will fund all four full-time employees.
The city is waging legal battles with the town of Greenport and A. Colarusso & Son over Colarusso’s proposed haul road and its dock improvement application.
The city’s annual contribution to the Hudson Area Library is increasing from $120,000 to $250,000, allowing the library to expand its hours of operation to seven days a week and expand its programs.
The largest decrease is reflected in the senior center budget, which will drop by 47.4 percent because Hudson is no longer required to pay Galvan $50,000 each year related to the renovation and outfitting the senior center space at the Galvan Armory, the mayor said.Salary increases
The budget proposes increasing the mayor’s annual salary from $45,000 to $60,000. The mayor’s salary represents the biggest increase of all department head salaries.
The increase would bring the level it was 12 years ago without an increase for inflation, Hamilton said.
“The $60,000 is level with what the mayor was paid in 2005,” Martin Hamilton said. “And the salary was then decreased to accommodate the pension requirements of the other people that were in office between 2005 and when I entered office.”
The highest budgeted salary for 2018 is $102,969 for the head of the Department of Public Works. The lowest is $47,992 in Code Enforcement.
The lower salary limits the pool of possible candidates, in some cases, to retirees, Hamilton said.
“Having a chief executive salary at $45,000 a year really limits the field of candidates that you are going to get that are willing to take that position,” Hamilton said. “Historically, it is has been retirees who are getting compensated through another source they are being made whole by a pension or some other source of compensation.”
Thee is no policy in place to determine how elected officials will be treated in terms of salary increases — be it members of the common council or the mayor, according to city officials.
Mayor-elect Rick Rector said he is in favor of evaluating city salaries but offered to recuse himself.
“Honestly, I think it is something we should evaluate — everyone’s compensation throughout the city and there should be a clear policy,” Rector said at the meeting. “Obviously, I would recuse myself because it affects me and I could say it is more awkward ... I’ll leave this up to the Common Council.”
The budget sets aside $50,000 to put in contingency to address “long standing” discrepancies among department head salaries, Hamilton said.
There is no policy in place for part-time employees. Department heads are allowed to set the salaries. That means some employees are making more money per hour than others with the same skills and experience, according to city officials.
“I will share again that as we look to form this compensation committee that is a concern that is raised is that there are people in code enforcement who have been there for more than a decade who are paid at an hourly rate that is far below part-time employees in other departments,” Hamilton said. “They heard that through the grapevine. So we really need to make sure we level the playing field for everyone.”Police, fire departments and animal control
The Hudson Police Department’s budget will increase 8 percent. In 2018, the department will be fully staffed at 26 officers. Police Committee members have said the 26th officer was removed from the 2017 budget without explanation.
“The contract allows for five sergeants, but we’re choosing to not move forward with the fifth sergeant role to save some money in 2018,” Hamilton said.
The Hudson Fire Department will add its first part-time staff member, who will work 10 hours per week to assist with administration. The department’s budget is increasing by 4.1 percent.
The budget adds $2,500 to the Animal Control budget for a canine enumeration project.
“It means that someone will go to houses that are known to have dogs that are unlicensed in attempt to get dog owners to be more compliant with licensing,” Hamilton said.
To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.