I have been a resident of Summit for over 20 years. Since each $1,000 that our property taxes rise takes substantially more than $20,000 out of the value of our homes, I remain interested in local budget matters.
I had a chance to address the Council at the Budget Hearing on May 5th and proposed 2 suggestions plus asked 2 questions.
i) Budget reports should show the historical budgeted versus actual receipts and expenditures side-by-side year-by-year to allow easy comparison, and variances ought to be explained.
ii) Council mentioned that total headcount has declined through attrition by about 3% (from 214 to 207), but the budget report should formally include a line item showing the change in total payroll cost year by year. Payroll is the majority of budgeted expenditures, and its growth can differ substantially from headcount.
QUESTION 1 - According to the Summit budget report published 5/09, 2007 actual receipts came in at $49.4 million, $9.6 million above the 2007 budget estimate published 1 year ago. It is remarkable that, so long after the fact, we find out that municipal tax receipts for 2007 (the latest year for which actual data is provided) so substantially exceeded budget. Where did the $9.6 million tax windfall go? The budget report provides no clue. Was it spent? On what? Did we save it? If so, where is it held? Most importantly, why do we need to raise taxes after receipt of such a sizable surplus?
QUESTION 2 - How does each council person plan to address the cost of pensions and debt service? These two items alone each are up nearly 15% in the 2009 budget and account for more than the entire increase in 2009 budgeted spending (i.e. without them, municipal taxes could be down instead of up). Council indicated that the pension spending is "catch-up" - does that mean we can count on pension spending declining next year?
These are serious questions. I am deeply disappointed that Council has shown zero interest in providing any answers.