State labor reforms and County shared services are so slow in coming that towns like Summit must fend for themselves. Forty-three percent of our elected officials turned over this year, and the new majority on Council now supports the following initiatives:
- Smaller government, delivering more personal service, particularly if stemming from “unfunded mandates” imposed by others.
- Digital records and a Work Order management system that lets residents serve themselves online via the municipal website and using credit cards.
- Consolidated 911 EMS dispatch center for Fire/Police/Squad within Summit if not some surrounding towns too.
- Fewer full-time staff because of the above productivity improvements.
- Tighter financial controls, including a new outside auditor and an earlier (2yr) budget cycle.
- More transparent Open Line newsletter explaining Total Levy (city + schools + county) to taxpayers in one consolidated Snapshot.
Recourse is also being taken against trusted advisors who failed to detect a payroll fraud in 2009 that cost Summit taxpayers $1.4 million. Full recovery now seems possible with the help of forensic accountant J.H. Cohn:
- The IRS has agreed to waive all interest and penalties for late Withholding Taxes.
- Our CFO of 29 yrs retired, and our independent Auditor of 5 yrs has resigned.
- The insurance agent who performs our Risk Manager function is up for renewal.
- Our employee blanket Performance Bond against honest “errors & omissions” has been successfully litigated.
- Our third-party Payroll service provider is out for competitive re-bid.
Our acting Treasurer has tightened internal controls at City Hall, and thoroughly reviewed all banking relationships. A Chief Financial Officer will be named next month.
Before Christmas we’re going to the bond market and permanently refinance $18 million of short term Notes, primarily for school improvements and sewer/roads infrastructure. Retail purchase of these book-entry securities will be possible via the underwriter.
Summit is still AAA rated, and remains extremely well run. Seventy-two of the 88-point “Best Practices for Local Governments” published recently by Gov. Christie are already done properly in Summit
Our challenge is to keep it affordable.
Tom Getzendanner is Ward 1 councilman on Summit’s Finance Committee and up for re-election Nov 2nd.