Road and infrastructure improvements are only “critical” when you are being asked to pay for them

A week can really change perceptions, or so it seems. On August 16, Council members were told that we needed to pass a resolution putting a tax increase on the ballot for May 2017.  Tax increases, or in this case a reduction in the income tax credit, require approval by Hudson voters per our Charter. Council must decide first whether or not to put this issue before voters, and what the “terms” are.

The urgency for a Council vote on August 16 was in order to meet a Board of Elections deadline to put the issue on the November 2016 ballot. When it looked like the majority was no longer in favor of a decision this fall, the issue could have been shelved for future consideration and discussion.

And there are many factors to discuss- the amount of the “ask,” the number of years we would ask for the additional tax, and how we would define its uses.

We were told then that the need was urgent, there was no reason to delay, we needed to get started on these projects as soon as possible, including a more aggressive road improvement program.

Forward one week to our August 23rd Workshop. Faced with a decision as to whether or not to spend a projected $300k budget surplus on infrastructure, the road repair program this year, Council decided that the need doesn’t seem quite so urgent. “We’re not certain the surplus is real,” we are told. We’re also warned that there are many “irons in the fire” like the new school bus garage (paid for by the City)  and Downtown Phase 2 planning that are competing for dollars.  “The roads are in pretty good shape,” we’re also told. Read more in the Hudson Hub Times. 

I don’t know if we will or won’t have a budget surplus this year. Whether we do or don’t, the $300k won’t hurt our budget. We spend that kind of money on many discretionary, unbudgeted items in the course of the year.  Repairing the roads on the 2016 additional list moves all projects that follow it up by a half year just the kind of aggressive program we were told was needed.

It seems that roads and infrastructure improvements take on more of an urgency when the discussion is whether you should be asked to pay more in local taxes.

Read more on this and other issues, including whether or not Hudson restricts medical marijuana operations, under the section Notes from the Recent Council meeting.

 

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Should a majority or a motivated minority of Hudson voters decide on an income tax increase?

A lesson for Hudson tax increase proponents from Tuesday’s election results in Macedonia

Hudson is considering a tax increase, we call it  “reducing the income tax credit,” but it is a tax increase nonetheless.  It would mean a 25%  local income tax increase (from 2% to 2.5%)for most residents who work outside of Hudson. It would go toward road projects, sidewalks paths and other infrastructure needs.  It may be “sunsetted,” (expired or reduced after a limited time) that is still up for discussion. City Council will decide next week whether to put the issue before Hudson voters in an off-year, off-time election like next May.

Macedonia also considered a 25% income tax increase to be spent on roads and sewers. It also would be sunsetted. Macedonia City Council decided that August would be a good time to hold that vote. Election Day was last Tuesday. The issue lost, by a 2 to 1 margin.

Why would Macedonia call for a special election on August 2 when the General Election is only 3 months away?  I can’t say for certain. But I do know from experience with similar tax campaigns that some government bodies like to put tax issues up when turnout is low, rather than risk the results when the turnout is high, like in a Presidential Election year. The reasoning is, you hope the “nos” may not show in great numbers and you try to motivate  your “yes” base to prevail.  Six different government bodies (schools, cities, libraries) in Summit County decided to take their chances with a low turnout in an August election. Three passed, three failed.  So I guess they are batting .500.

But isn’t the real point of an election is getting the best representative sample of the electorate, not the smallest one?  Turnout in these August or May elections when taxes are the single issue bring out only 25 to 30% of the turnout of an election like this fall. Macedonia’s results bore this out.

A campaign committee can certainly do everything in its power to assure a positive outcome. A government body, like a City Council, should be more impartial.

I am not sure if I’m in favor of an increase. What I think doesn’t really matter.  Hudson’s Charter leaves that decision up to the voters. I want to hear from the greatest number of you, not whatever small sample that can be influenced to show up in a special election.

City Council will decide the “if” and “when” of a ballot issue on Tuesday, August 9, as a deadline for putting it on the November ballot is approaching.  If you have influence with anyone on Council, tell them if you think a majority should decide on a tax increase, and not a small minority. No special elections. We need a fall election to get a representative vote, either this fall or November 2017, when the a majority of Council is up for vote.

A reminder – Ward 3 Open Forum  – Fall edition  Monday, August 29, 2016 7-8:30 AM Barlow Community Center.  Tell me what you think about taxes, roads, whatever you want. Come for a few minutes or all evening. Sorry this is early, before Labor Day, but it’s when I could get on the calendar. Hope to see you there!