Groundwork for Hudson FY16 Budget is Set

November 7, 2014

by Len Lathrop

Over the past several weeks, both elected groups of Hudson, the selectmen and the school board, have been meeting with the town employees who head departments or manage a school as principal.

Before going over the details, let’s review the process.  Department heads and principals, with the help of their senior staff members, have presented what they believe they need to run their school or department from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016, known as the Fiscal Year 16 budget.  Their instruction from both elected teams was about the same:  tell us what you need for this next fiscal year.  Generally, the budgets had been held to a 1 percent or maybe a 2 percent increase, and, in many previous years, there has been no increase at all.

Just a little more history before the numbers.  The next step is to go to the Hudson Budget Committee, also elected leaders, who evaluate both budgets; it truly becomes their budget.  Next, the selectmen and school board can change anything.  Well, they can ask the budget committee to change something, which they can choose to do or not do.  The budget committee then will bring the budget to the residents at the deliberative sessions in early February, where the will of those attending those meetings can amend monetary amounts or the wording of what are, at this point, known as warrant articles.  Finally, the deliberative body sends everything to the March election for the people’s consideration.

Confused?  That’s ok.  Just remember the word ‘change.’  If after you finish reading the numbers part of this story and don’t agree, you have to affect change.  If you agree that these budgets are how you want tax dollars spend, then you don’t have to affect change, but should still keep your eye on the bottom line.  The sooner change happens, if that is your goal, the easier it is.  Visit a budget committee meeting and offer your thoughts, go to deliberative and share your views, and, of course, always vote.

Let’s start with the Hudson School District budget.  Going to the budget committee is an operating budget for $50,380,013 for FY16.  The current year’s budget approved last March is $48,911,194.  This is a 3 percent increase; the taxpayers are responsible to fund only $47,393,530.  This $1,488,855 increase from last year is a 3.24 percent difference.  The school district’s finance director reports this means about a $1 increase on tax bills just on the school side.  That equates to $256 more per year for the average Hudson homeowner.

In addition, there are three employment contracts:  the paraprofessional and cafeteria worker union, the janitorial union, and the secretarial union.  All of these will affect the tax rate if passed.  Also projected to be on the ballot are several questions that won’t impact the tax rate, as well as one still-to-be-defined question about a new track and artificial field playing surface being proposed for Alvirne stadium.

On the town ballot, the budget for FY16 includes three areas: operations, sewer utility and the water department.  The operating budget for FY16 is $24,411,456, a $1,081,810 increase from this year’s budget of $23,329,646; sewer is down $68,169 to $1,581,206 from $1,649,375; and the water utility is also down $383,666 from $3,800,846 in FY 15 to $3,417,180 for FY 16, which sounds great but doesn’t impact the tax rate.  Both water and sewer are solely funded from user rate fees.

Meanwhile, ten other warrants are on the ballot, but not all have a tax rate effect.  The ones that do include a salary increase for the town clerk (a elected position) of $1,280; first-year bond payment of $74,600 on a 2 million dollar bond for a new fire station on Lowell Road; and a wage increase for non-union library employees of $15,397, a 3.5 percent increase.  A request will be on the ballot to place $200,000 in a capital reverse fund for new dispatch consoles at both the police and fire station; estimates for this replacement equipment are from $315,000 to $425,000.  These warrants, in addition to the three operating budgets, would result in an 11 cent rate increase.

A quick chart (see below) shows the breakdown.  Remember that everything must be approved by the budget committee, then at the town and school deliberate meetings, and on the final ballot in early March.  All warrants (which affect tax rate) would be effective on July 1, 2015.

The FY16 requests are as follows:

School District budget:  $50,380,013 – $1 impact

School District – other warrants:  unknown as stadium numbers and contract costs not determined

Town budget – General Funds:  $24,411,456 – 9 cent impact

Town (other warrants):  $291,277 – 11 cent impact