Congratulations to Messrs. Fox, Gould, and Little on a watershed election victory.
Summit voters clearly want fresh (Trump-free) leadership. But I don’t think they believe City Hall is broken. In fact Republican hegemony has kept this town affordable but excellent for decades.
Thank goodness, because a sea-change is coming that could double the cost of living here overnight. If Federal IRS code reform ends the “deductibility” of local property taxes (which most of us currently itemize on our personal 1040 returns).
Instead of being indifferent towards taxes, our Mayor and Common Council must now outright reduce the cost of local government . . . without cutting service levels!
Because the average Summit Household today pays $18,000 for Municipal + School + County services. (Wealthy residents upwards of $75,000 or more). Moreover everyone’s all-in Levy is still growing 2% a year, thanks to Freeholder spending!
The key to Democrat success will be fiscal restraint. Knowing that (unfunded) pension / medical benefits make full-time staff prohibitively expensive (spring-loaded). Our only recourse is shrink (via attrition not layoffs) City Hall headcount. Reducing the present 204 permanent workforce 3 or 4 employees per year.
Redeploy senior management (grade 13 above). Automate manual labor (treasury disbursements). Integrate website (self-serve) technology. Discontinue unenforced regulations (cat licenses). Privatize business functions (parking). Share departments with neighboring towns (NP Municipal Court, Millburn Fire). Outsource tax revaluations (citywide).
Fortunately we’ve gotten good at “zero-based budgeting.” The BOE added full-day kindergarten without cannibalizing regular programs – by making FDK optional but tuition-based (free if scholarship eligible). Since 2009 we’ve invested over $50 million modernizing all 9 school bldgs: brand new roofs, windows, doors, furnaces now save $900,000 operating expenses (utility bills) annually.
Altogether $135 million flows through City Hall every year – a BIG BUSINESS by any standard. Ample room for managers to fund new initiatives from existing old dollars, not fresh tax revenue.
Happily we’ve lived within 2% CAP for years. Because many of our diverse citizens can’t afford to pay higher property taxes. For example 13% of Summit students qualify for Free / Reduced school lunches (versus 1% in Chatham, Millburn).
To remain an inclusive community, friendly for seniors as well as young families, we must keep it AFFORDABLE. If empty-nesters sell their houses too quickly and move out, our school age population (already 4,100 strong) will require another Elementary.
43% of us turned out at the polls on Election Day (sixty percent of whom voted Democrat). But 100% of us pay property taxes! Fewer than 30% of us directly use public school system, yet half our tax Levy goes to education (a very generous portion). Schools are everybody’s #1 community asset. However 99% of us aren’t wealthy enough to donate to the SEF foundation.
Smaller government and limited budgets are essential to preserving the “diversity” which is Summit today.