Property owners in Hudson are now looking at the deadline next week for the first installment of their 2012 real estate tax bills, mailed out the week before Christmas. They were, for many, not a reason for seasonal rejoicing. Increases in both county taxes and school taxes have resulted in a higher tax bill for many. The city of Hudson, though, is not one of the reasons for hefting a larger tax burden; the city tax levy has remained essentially unchanged from last year.
This is good news for taxpayers, but it’s also sobering news for a city that wishes to continue to make progress into the future, and is trying to do so armed with only the same resources as in the past. In the face of continually rising increases in the cost of living, each year the dollar becomes slightly less valuable; and if you have roughly the same number of dollars as you did in the past, then you’re going to have difficulty moving forward.
The decision to not raise taxes is not necessarily easy, but neither is it very difficult. All it takes is for four of the six representatives on the city council to agree that the budget total will remain unchanged, or close to it, and you’re done. The difficult part is deciding, after reviewing the areas that have increased costs almost every year - insurance is a prime candidate here - which areas are going to suffer cuts that will balance those increases. The really difficult part is making sure that those cuts don’t harm the city’s delivery of services and safety to its residents.
Hudson has enjoyed for several years now a reputation for delivering city services at a low cost to the taxpayer. The research organization Red Cedar Research has found Hudson to often be among the top five penny-pinchers all of all cities in western Wisconsin. Again, this is either good or bad, depending on your view of the transforming (or stagnating) effect on the city.
With this reputation for watching the cash flow, you’d think that our city council has annually turned over every rock and examined every expense, in order to keep our tax burden as low as possible. You’d be justified in thinking this, if it were actually so, but it may not be. Tomorrow we’ll look at one case in point.