Summit Council Introduces $47.2 Million Municipal Budget; Tab Would Increase Taxes on Average Home for City Purposes by $23

SUMMIT, NJ—The Summit Common Council on Tuesday introduced a 2012 spending plan for the city totaling $47,160,970.86.

Taxes on the average home in the city, assessed at $410,000, would increase by $23 to a total of $3,693 for municipal purposes, according to City Administrator Chris Cotter.

However, Councilman Thomas Getzendanner pointed out that, with school taxes and those charged to Summit taxpayers by Union County, the average property tax bill is expected to reach $16,000 this year.

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Council President Richard Madden added of the total tax increase of about $600 for the average property owner in the city this year the majority is again expected to be attributable to the county.

He called for residents to continue to pressure county freeholders to decrease spending and to press for changes in the equalization ratio, which makes Summit one of the highest taxed communities in the county.

The public hearing on the Summit budget is scheduled for Tuesday, April 3.

Councilman Dave Bomgaars, chair of the finance committee, noted the municipal tax increase, which originally had been projected at 1.9 percent, dropped to 1.64 percent then to 1.38 percent, then to .69 percent before winding up at its current level of 0.64 percent.

Getzendanner, who voted against the budget as introduced, said movement had been slow in cutting appropriations. He called for more structural cost savings and more sources of steady revenue instead of what he called “one-off budget gimmicks.”

Bomgaars disputed Getzendanner’s use of the term “one-off gimmicks.”

In another budget-related move, the governing body introduced an ordinance to allow it to increase the municipal budget by 3.5 percent.

Under the state cap law, which regulates municipal spending increases, a community may increase its budget up to 1 percent over the state cap of 2.5 percent on budget increases.

If it does not spend appropriations up to the 3.5 percent limit by the end of the year, it can “bank” the difference for use in the next two succeeding budgets.

Bomgaars, who said this year’s appropriations are down about $623,000 over the projections at the beginning of the year, noted the extra appropriations were included to give the city flexibility in case of an emergency.

Although he said he understood the intention of the cap bank, Getzendanner voted against it because he believes residents expected to hold the council accountable and to keep spending even below the 2.5 percent cap if possible.

The council also introduced a $300,486 budget for the special improvement district and adopted a temporary 2012 capital budget amounting to $476,000.

The capital budget figure is designed to enable the parking authority to finance $500,000 in improvements to the Broad Street parking garage.

Of the $500,000 total, $24,000 now is available from the Parking Utility Capital Improvement Fund. The remainder will be financed through a city bond ordinance, also introduced on Tuesday evening.

Councilwoman Nuris Portuondo, who chairs the General Services Committee, said the proposed garage repairs result from wear and tear on the facility from winter weather, as experienced last year, and a need to do an overall upkeep of the facility which occurs about once every 10 years.

She added the maintenance would be done over the summer so disruption to those using the garage would be kept to a minimum.

Getzendanner also voted against the parking garage proposals because, he said, the parking facility could be better managed by a private vendor.

City parking agency director, Rita McNany, replied, however, that the garage was built in 1996 and systematic maintenance extends its life.

She added all debt service on any parking utility capital outlay is paid for from user fees.

In his presentation on the budget, Cotter also pointed out that the parking utility this year will contribute about $200,000 from its surplus to the municipal budget and this year the utility will generate about $500,000 for capital improvements.

Going back to the 2012 operating budget, he noted the city would receive $60,000 more this year from energy receipts taxes and $8,000 more from hotel and motel taxes.

In addition, the budget anticipates a $40,000 reduction in trash disposal fees.

Also, the city’s reserve for tax appeals will be reduced by $25,000, the reserve to the capital improvement fund will go down by $25,000, the amount paid for the Hometown TV contract will drop by $13,800 and the amount used from appropriated funds that were not expended will go down by $25,000.

Cotter added the city saw a $12 million drop in ratables, or a 1.3% decline, during 2011-2012. Most of that, he said, came from tax appeals by homeowners who said their homes had lost assessed value and, therefore, they should be paying less property taxes what they were charged.

The administrator noted, however, there now seems to be an increasing amount of reinvestment in the city and assessed values are on the rise.

In ceremonies prior to the start of Tuesday’s official business, Keith Kwiatek was sworn in as the city’s newest police officer, Mel Hariri and Patty Mallon Herzog of the Summit First Aid Squad were recognized for saving the life of an elderly victim of a heart ailment at the Jewish Community Center on December 28 and Chris Truhe, president of the Bonds of Courage organization, presented Madden and Mayor Ellen Dickson with its latest roster of Summit military personnel.

Bonds of Courage provides personal and financial support to military personnel and their families.

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