Last month Ed Vant retired as president of the Summit Taxpayers Association.  Mr. Vant was preceded by Bob Wolfenbarger, who held the position for many years until 2006.  Both men contributed enormously to the important and growing demand for property tax relief in Summit, where the average household now pays over $15,000/yr.

After searching for a successor, Mr. Vant who is 75 years old (ten years younger than last reported) worried it “might be an overwhelming job”.  No one stepped forward until Thomas M. Garvey of Summit volunteered after reading about its need for fresh leadership.  STA is a non-profit organization which conducts non-partisan analysis thru studies and research for public information purposes.  It is the ONLY all-volunteer group organized to represent the Summit taxpayer, and has existed since 1943.

Mr. Garvey, age 58, has lived in Summit along with his wife Mary and six children for nearly 20 years.  He spent three decades at JPMorgan Chase Bank in various positions including that of President of Chase Personal Financial Services.   Before leaving in 2007, Mr. Garvey was Vice Chairman of the Chase Mortgage Co. and President of Chase Retail Mortgage.  He also served as a member of the Financial Services Round Table in Washington, D.C.

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Mr. Garvey said when he moved here the first thing he and his wife considered was the performance of the Summit school system.  “We’ve been very pleased with the outstanding academic performance of our District, competitive in every respect with both national public and local private schools.”  Tom soon became assistant coach for the first Summit woman’s basketball team to ever reach the NJ State finals.  Today Summit sports teams like football and Lacrosse regularly make winning a tradition!  “After public education come several other community assets like good mass transit connections, a stand-alone Downtown, and safe roads/sidewalks – all of which make Summit a unique place to live.”

The Garvey’s three oldest children are now married, and have all decided to make Summit their home too.  Each is a graduate of SHS where their younger brother is now a senior.  “Like many friends and neighbors, our children are sold on Summit but wonder how they can affordably live here.”  High taxes like higher interest rates reduce home affordability, with a corresponding impact on property values.  Over 30% of Summit residents are renters and/or on fixed incomes.  “Our quality of life requires enthusiastic support from all taxpayers if we’re going to sustain it.”

Tom said “We live in an affluent town and my definition of affluence is that you can have anything you want … you just can’t have everything you want.”  He accepted the STA presidency to help become a part of the home-affordability solution.  The financial crisis over the past three years has touched nearly every Summit resident causing virtually everyone to allocate lower incomes among competing family demands.  The recent national and state elections show that local govt faces the same need for difficult choices.  “We must come together and agree on an ambitious goal of holding City and County tax increases to 0% within three years, and become one of the first municipal governments in New Jersey to actually reduce taxes by year #4.”  Mr. Garvey looks forward to working with: The Summit School Board, the City of Summit Council, The Union County Freeholders and the taxpayers of Summit to achieve this goal.

Ed Vant has agreed to serve one more year as Secretary of the STA to assure continuity while the new President settles in.  The Summit Taxpayers Association has called a reorganization meeting for Monday, December 13, 2010 at 7:30 PM at The Summit Middle School, 272 Morris Avenue (Room 118).  This will be a chance for members to get to know Tom Garvey and look ahead to the upcoming budget season.  If you would like to join the organization, please send a check for $10.00 payable “STA” to Russ Smith, Treasurer, P.O. Box 474, Summit, NJ 07902-0474 or bring it to the meeting next week.