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Reconsidering Your Tax Dollars

You Can Make a Difference in How Our Tax Dollars Are Spent.

Over the past few days we’ve been discussing the lack of accountability for use of over $100,000 of your tax dollars, granted by the city of Hudson to the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau.  And that’s over $100K per year; in the past few years well over half a million dollars of your tax funds have been granted to the HACCTB, and it’s a safe bet that not one person in our city government can say for sure what all of the money was used for.

What we do know is that a disproportionately high cost is attached to the HACCTB’s administration of the funds.  Ostensibly to be used for tourism, much of the money seems to go instead to the Chamber.  The latest example we have is the recent report that, for the first nine months of 2012, when the city of Hudson gave $82,661 of our money to the HACCTB for advertising and promotion of tourism.  According to their own books, the amount HACCTB spent on advertising, promotion, printing, mailings, meetings, mileage, etc. was $24,857.  An amount of $50,275 was spent on “Allocations” which, according to a handwritten note from the organization, means payroll, rent, etc.  In other words, on themselves.  And the remaining $7,530 was simply declared “Income,” apparently, again, for themselves.

We expect there to be some cost to administer the process by which the advertising and the mailings are produced.  But $50,275 to administer $24,857?  And to whom does the $7,530 “Income” go?

This issue of “where has our money gone?” is about our money and not about anything else. The possibility of squandered tax dollars is neutral on the subject of Hudson tourism.  If you are in favor of investing in tourism advertising and promotion, then you probably want to see our money go much further than it has in this direction.  You would probably like to see $58,00 spent on tourism, and $24,000 or less spent on overhead, instead of the other way around.  You can help make this happen.

Possibly you believe this money could be better spent elsewhere.  After all, $115,000, the amount proposed to be granted to HACCTB in 2013, would buy a lot: a mile of new curb and gutter for our streets, or several years’ worth of grooming of our city parks, or the expansion of hours at our library, which had to recently close on Mondays for lack of funds.  Again, you can help make this happen.

Either way, you would have to get the city council to go back to square one, undo the vote at their last session to grant this money to HACCTB, and start a real discussion about how to live up to the city’s procurement policy, which governs these sorts of investments, and which states that the city must strive to “make the maximum use of...local tax dollars by paying the optimum price...” 

Well, the city council can do just that.  It’s called reconsideration, and our city charter makes provision for it by allowing any member of the council who voted “yes” to granting $115,000 for tourism (all of them did) to simply state at the next regularly-scheduled meeting that he or she wants to reconsider the issue.  It’s been done before, and it works.

Whatever results from a reconsideration of the use of our tax dollars, whether things remain unchanged or whether a new direction evolves, at least the city will be doing what they haven’t done in years, and that’s hold an open discussion and solicit comments about how this money should be spent.  And whatever the outcome, we’ve all got to feel better about how our tax funds will be treated.

If you want to make this happen, just contact your council representative and tell him or her that you want them to ask the mayor to put reconsideration on the agenda for the council meeting on this Monday, January 28.  It’s as simple as that.  City council contact information can be found at www.ci.hudson.wi.us/council.htm, or just do a search on “City of Hudson”.  Both phone numbers and email addresses are provided, so you can call or write.

It’s our money, and it needs to be treated with some respect.  I’ll be asking my council representative for reconsideration.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Chadwick January 26, 2013 at 01:46 PM
Very interesting info Scott. Does the chamber send anyone out to different cities to do tradeshows or anything of the sort where some of the money spent on payroll could be justified? If not I would say that we do have a problem here. Hopefully someone from the Chamber will comment on here.
Dirk A. January 26, 2013 at 02:35 PM
Thanks for the education on this topic, Scot. Another case of money falling through the cracks. I'd like to see our members of the City Council post their comments, such as Mary has done. My only disagreement with your columns is that I would not pour any more money into the library. It's a dinosaur that's living on borrowed time.
Don Maysack January 26, 2013 at 03:03 PM
If the promotion of tourism for Hudson is considered by a majority to be an essential city function (especially one worth $100,000+), then, the contract for such a service should be very specific. Objectives should be clearly stated; outcomes precisely measured. This should be done for all city contracts. The fact that this contract has not been subject to such rigorous execution is a serious lapse in city government. Issue an RFP for the service -- let the Chamber apply along with other applicants. The result will be some new ideas for the function and more accountability for its productive execution.
Chadwick January 26, 2013 at 03:12 PM
Couldn't agree more on the library Dirk, and it would be great to hear from Mary as I believe she is fiscally conservative too.
Tim January 26, 2013 at 04:02 PM
I too would love to hear a response from city council representatives on this topic...Mary? Anyone?
Phiddy1 January 26, 2013 at 06:54 PM
A key question on this issue is from what budget pot is this additional funding being taken. It seems that some very key organizations have had their funding reduced to support the Chamber. These entities do not receive large allotments but really miss this funding when it is reduced or eliminated. Perhaps the entire budget should be more closely examined to determine the fairness community-wide.
Truthometer January 26, 2013 at 10:01 PM
This thread seems to be talking about tax dollars, so here is something for you to chew on if you want to discuss how tax money is spent. The Hudson School District gave all teachers a 2.66% raise in December. In January the district gave everyone another raise, this time all employees, support help, teachers, and administration. When you add up both raises it amounts to anywhere from $800,000 to just under a million dollars. Think about this, if you are really concerned about how your tax dollars are spent. The district saved over a million dollars when Gov. Walker enacted ACT 10. The district for the first time was able to bid out health care, and the savings were substantial. But it sure didn't take them long to figure out how to spend the money they saved - raises for everyone. But what's a million here and a million there. After all, it's just tax money, more where that came from. So while you care greatly about the money being spent on the Chamber/Tourism Bureau, the amount you are talking about is small potatoes compared to what the school district throws around like confetti. Remember, it all ends up on our tax bills.
Joe Feidt January 27, 2013 at 01:21 AM
Excellent insight, Scot. I would think the Chamber should be able to fund itself without help from the city. Do we really need or want the hordes of tourists that the Chamber attracts? In the summer, when most of them come, they create: traffic jams, noise in the form of motorcycles, loud concerts, etc., litter, water pollution, air pollution from vehicle exhaust, added police patrols (which costs the City money), and so on. Do we really want Hudson to become another Stillwater with all their problems? Puhleeze, less promotion by the Chamber and City would be wonderful. Just sayin' ....
Concerned Citizen #1 January 27, 2013 at 02:32 AM
Pile on the school district....way to deflect the attention away from what the article is really about....Truthometer I welcome you to write a column much has Scot has done several times now about the concerns you have with the district and how they use the tax dollars. It would be a good read I am sure.
mary yacoub January 27, 2013 at 03:55 AM
Here is what I can say. The 115,000 spent comes from Beds in Heads which means the citizens are not taxed but people who visit the City and stay in our hotels pay a tax. This money is distributed to places around Hudson that bring in more beds in heads. So to me that number is irrelevant, if we raise hotel tax at all that 70% is permanent and not an option. Overhead and administrative costs are a necessity as well and we have to look at the return for our dollar. The Chamber does a fine job and has worked hard to advertise Hudson qualities to attract tourism to our City and getting Hudson on the "map". The State will barely allow us to advertise our downtown along the Highway and good advertisement allows businesses to grow. Businesses grow and people come and spend money in our City. Spending money in our City gives us more money as well. More money to spend on future services. We are the fastest growing County in the Midwest. That is a good thing and just doesn't happen on its own. So yes I am a fiscal conservative. I believe that growth in business aides in lowering our overall taxes and I also believe that the chamber helps those businesses to grow. So in a 7 million dollar budget I think what we spend for the chamber is a positive thing and we are getting a good bang for our buck. I believe this will be my last post on this issue as I feel I am talking in circles. I welcome a phone call or to schedule a meeting with anyone to discuss this topic more.
Chadwick January 27, 2013 at 03:16 PM
Are you serious? I hope this is a joke.
Chadwick January 27, 2013 at 03:19 PM
I don't have a problem with the amount or the chamber. I think they do a great job. The only thing I found questionable was the accounting for the money they get.
Frank McGruber January 27, 2013 at 09:36 PM
Joe, it sounds like you would prefer to be a hermit.

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