Q: Why is the City even considering generating additional funding for infrastructure projects?
A: Quite simply, the amount of money that the City has been spending on infrastructure maintenance and reconstruction an annual basis is not enough to keep up with the needs of the community. If you drive or walk around many parts of the town, you can see that pavement is cracked and falling apart, curbs are heaved and cracked, and sidewalks have tripping hazards or are missing altogether. That does not even include the things you cannot see underground, such as water and sanitary sewer pipes that are over 100 years old in places and other pipes that are cracked, too small, or missing in key locations. The City recently completed an inventory of our current backlog of infrastructure maintenance, and currently, there is approximately $127 million in current or deferred maintenance. Over time, that amount will increase if we continue to inadequately fund our critical infrastructure. Obviously, it will take time for the City to get out of its infrastructure deficit, but we need to start on this soon so that we do not fall further behind.
Q: What happens if the City does not start more infrastructure maintenance?
A: The more that needed maintenance is delayed, the more expensive the maintenance becomes. It is three times as expensive to fully replace pavement as it is to do a mill and overlay, and it is about three times as expensive to do a mill and overlay than it is to do a seal coat. Seal coats, however, are not effective on streets that are below a 6 out of 10 pavement rating, and mill & overlays are no longer an option on streets that are below a 4 out of 10 pavement rating. Unfortunately, street pavement ratings decline over time without maintenance, so the less money spent on maintenance upfront, the more money spent on a reconstruction later on. Meaning, it is more fiscally responsible to spend money on maintenance to keep infrastructure in decent condition than it is to neglect the infrastructure for a long time and then need to reconstruct it.
Additionally, if the City does not fund infrastructure adequately, streets may crumble to the point that the City is no longer able to even patch potholes or do other basic maintenance effectively. At that time, the City may be forced to “depave” those streets, which means reverting the street pavement to gravel. City staff does not see this as an acceptable long-term option, but it will become reality at some point without adequately funding maintenance.
Q: I already pay a lot of property taxes. Where do my property taxes go?
A: For the average household in the City of Hudson, about half of your property taxes go to the school district, about a quarter goes to the City of Hudson, about a fifth goes to St Croix County, and the remainder goes to the technical college system. For a $300,000 house, this equates to about $5,000 per year in property taxes, of which about $1,275 goes to the City. The City portion of your property taxes not only goes toward infrastructure upkeep but also toward other critical core City services such as police and fire, parks, city administration, building maintenance, etc. In 2020, about 12% of the City’s total expenditures involved street maintenance staffing or projects.
Q: How do I provide my input into the decision of whether or not to move forward with either of these options?
A: The City is holding a series of “neighborhood meetings” to discuss these options. These meetings will be held in locations around the City, and one is anticipated to be held over Zoom. There will also be a formal public hearing so that City Council can hear from the public regarding this topic. You can also email the staff identified above or your council member and/or Mayor to provide your input at any time.