SUMMIT, NJ—Summit officials and residents over the years have complained in a number of different forums about what they consider the unfair proportion of the Union County property tax burden that is born by property owners in the Hilltop City.
The Summit Common Council for a number of years has had a liaison to the county freeholder board and various members of the council have appeared at freeholder meetings to urge fiscal restraint and a fairer distribution of the tax burden.
In addition, the Summit Taxpayers Association has been a vocal critic of county spending practices.
Officials in other suburban county municipalities also have attacked county spending, which this year resulted in an approximate 11 per cent increase in the county budget. In fact, Berkeley Heights Councilman Robert Woodruff last week said his community should explore seceding from Union County to join either of two adjacent counties—Morris or Somerset.
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Summit governing body, Councilman Dave Bomgaars noted the Hilltop City had considered secession in 2004 or 2005, but since this requires a consensual vote by the state legislature, decided such an effort was futile.
Councilman Patrick Hurley said, however, that since Summit cannot attain the voice it deserves in county affairs with the nine county freeholders elected at-large maybe it is time for some of the freeholders to be elected from districts to give the suburbs some representation.
He noted that this could be achieved either through an act of the legislature or through a vote of the freeholder board itself and said perhaps Summit should pursue such a move.
On another fiscal matter, Councilman Thomas Getzendanner noted recent state property valuations show Summit’s property assessments are only at about 45 percent of their true value.
In order to receive a fairer shake in the county tax picture and to stem the tide of tax appeals, he once again suggested that Summit do a citywide reassessment—as soon as next year.
On a more positive note, Emi Havas, chair of the executive committee of Summit Downtown, Inc. at Tuesday’s meeting honored Richard Caputo for his long service during the 19-year tenure of the Summit Farmer’s Market.
In addition, Councilwoman Nuris Portuondo, the acting mayor in the absence of Mayor Ellen Dickson, recognized Fire Prevention Week in Summit from Oct. 7-13 with the assistance of Fire Chief Joseph Houck.
The council also adopted an ordinance providing for two mid-block crosswalks on Morris Avenue in front of the Merck & Co. Inc. offices.
According to Hurley, the crosswalks are chiefly designed to give Merck employees safe access to the Promenade shopping area that is across the street from the Merck building. He said signals at both crosswalks would operate simultaneously.
Getzendanner objected to the crosswalks, saying the city had decided about three years ago it was not safe for employees to cross Morris Avenue, the company provided coffee within its building and the crosswalks would needlessly delay traffic during peak travel hours.
Bomgaars, Hurley and Councilman Robert Rubino all said the crosswalks were needed. Unlike three years ago, when Schering-Plough had only a skeleton crew in the Broad Street building, according to Rubino, the Merck site is almost fully occupied.
The councilmen also noted Merck is the city’s largest taxpayer and providing the crosswalks helped stimulate business for stores in the Promenade.
Council members also authorized $60,000 from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to pay Hilltop Parmley Partners for completion of three affordable housing units they had agreed with the city to provide and release of a $711,184.80 performance bond to Parmley because of completion of their affordable housing projects.
The governing body also authorized applications for New Jersey Department of Transportation grants for traffic and pedestrian signals on DeForest Avenue and paving, drainage and sanitary sewer work on Passaic Avenue between Springfield Avenue and Constantine Place.
On another matter, City Administrator Chris Cotter announced auction of city-owned property at 2 Walnut Street would take place this Thursday, October 4, at 11 am in the Common Council Chambers.
He also said the city expected to complete installation of equipment in the renovated shopper parking lots this week with the equipment probably operational next week.
Portuondo added fall plantings were being installed in the lots to be replaced by appropriate spring landscaping during that season.