HUDSON — Mayor Kamal Johnson is awaiting word from the police union and Civil Service Employees Association about requests he has made that would bring $100,000 in savings to a proposed "bare-bones" 2021 budget.
The Board of Estimate and Apportionment will hand the budget to the Common Council on Thursday, Common Council President Thomas DePietro said. There will be a public hearing 5 p.m. Nov. 17. The council will then meet to discuss the budget 5:30 p.m. Nov. 19 before taking a vote.
The council can make cuts but cannot add to the budget, according to the city charter.
The approved 2020 budget was $11,945,838 and the 2021 proposed budget is $11,856,458, DePietro said. The change reflects a decrease of $89,380.
The general fund does not include the cemetery, sewer and water budgets. The sewer and water revenue are dedicated funds that must be retained by their departments, DePietro said.
“The budget being presented to you is a bare-bones budget that keeps in mind the importance of city services and the shortfalls that have been dealt to our city during COVID-19,” Johnson told the Common Council on Tuesday.
The proposed budget will prevent an increase in property taxes, he said.
“I want to go on record to thank all of our city workers for their contribution to the work and a budget that will not increase any property taxes,” Johnson said. “That was something we set out to do, understanding the financial crisis and how the increase of property taxes in previous years have really put a strain on our citizens, and also we wanted to be conscious of not depleting our fund balance.”
Every city department has a 2021 budget lower than or equal to their 2020 adjusted budget, Johnson said.
“I’m hoping for some answers in the next couple of days,” he said of the unions.
The city will know in time for the public hearing, he added.
The city is requesting the unions forgo the 2021 contractual raises of 1.5% for the police union and 2.5% for CSEA, Johnson said.
“Given the chance that we receive federal relief, then we would renegotiate and pick up the raises around July,” he added.
He also proposed the police department forgo their first uniform allowance payment for 2021.
As of now, the department is budgeted for around $50,000 in uniform allowances for 2021, Johnson said.
He also asked for the discontinued use of take-home cars for police officers who are not on duty, which would save money in gas and maintenance, he said.
The city’s labor attorney sent over a memorandum of agreement (MOA) Tuesday morning, Johnson said.
The changes would save the city $100,000, Johnson said.
“We sent over the MOA this morning and they’re going to talk with their members about it,” he said. “And I understand a lot of where they come from. They have families they have to take care of and my biggest goal is to get through next year without having to lay off workers or do anything that can affect salaries.”
The city’s shortfall has decreased from $1.5 million to roughly $497,000 due to budget modifications, and these negotiations, if accepted, would bring it down to about $397,000, Johnson said.
“This would bring it down another 100 thousand and lessen the blow of what we have to take out of the fund balance,” Johnson said.
The resulting shortfall will be taken from the city’s fund balance, which is a reserve fund meant for emergencies.
While New York state recommends municipalities keep 18% of their budget in a reserve fund, Hudson has maintained 25% in a reserve fund thanks to Treasurer Heather Campbell, DePietro said.
Selling city-owned properties will help make up for the 2020 shortfall, DePietro said.
Selling the various properties can replenish what’s taken from the fund balance, Johnson said.
“The budget process was particularly difficult this year, but I think we did an excellent job making cuts while preserving essential services,” DePietro said. “Moreover, we managed to anticipate a possible decline in future revenue by keeping the budget under last year’s. And at the same time, there will be no property tax increase.”
Among the 2021 budget developments, the Youth Department has consolidated its positions.
Youth Director Nick Zachos presented the change to the Board of Estimate and Apportionment on Friday.
Having more full-time staff and fewer part-time staff means employees stay on board longer, which is better for the youth, Zachos said.
“We do a great disservice for the youth in our community when we bring people on who they get to know, who they get to love, and they develop trust for, who then leave us for other jobs because there is no full-time positions at the Youth Department for our rec attendants,” Zachos said.
The new pay structure would also cost the city less in payroll, he said, with a predicted 2021 first payroll of $16,696.64. The current payroll is $21,339.96, according to his presentation Friday.
The clerk’s office will replace a retiring full-time worker with a part-time worker, Johnson said.
“They’re already overworked so we’re grateful to have them on board and still being able to put forth a budget that’s going to be beneficial to the city,” Johnson told the council.
If the city receives federal aid, Johnson hopes to prioritize the senior center, he said at the meeting.
“Our senior center is in the most need for resources,” he said.
Both the Department of Public Works and the police department have been cut significantly, with changes in personnel, he said.
Two positions from retirees were not filled in the police department, and two per diem part-time dispatches who earned $5,000 each will not be rehired, Johnson said.
In the Department of Public Works, part-time cemetery workers will not be rehired.
“The cemetery, which is a huge expense for the city, managed to get through the summer without part-time employees, so we cut them for the coming year,” DePietro said.
Campbell could not be reached for comment following multiple requests.