SUMMIT — Tuesday the common council will hold a final reading and public hearing for the 2013 $42.4 million budget, which called for a $9.25 increase on the average home assessed at $410,000.
The municipal portion of a taxpayer’s bill is just one part of a three part bill which also includes school and county taxes. Combined, the three portions provide the total tax assessment for property owners in the city.
This year, 23 percent of every taxpayer dollar in Summit will go to the city, 24 percent to the county and 53 percent to the schools.
Last year the 2012 budget was $42.3 million, with $28.2 million to be raised by taxes, compared to the $28.1 million this year. Tax on the average home also went down, with this year the average home assessed at $410,000 only going up $1.47, or 0.04 percent, compared to last year when it went up $50.
The spending plan, which will require $28,152,329 to be raised by taxes, reflected $159,813 increase over the 2012 budget, or 0.57 percent more. Included was a 1.5 percent salary increase for municipal employees. Full time positions, though, were reduced since 2002 when the city had 223 positions compared to 2012 when there were only 199 people on the payroll fulltime.
A four-year agreement between the city and department of public works unionized employees Local 469 was unanimously approved April 3 by the council. The four-year agreement, effective Jan. 1 this year until Dec. 31, 2016, provided the union members a 1.5 percent increase every year of the contract.
Although Council member Thomas Getzendanner thought the agreement was solid, he felt the city should work on redefining employee overtime across the board to meet the state definition of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Impacting the budget this year were several things, including an unexpected $95,000 expenditure to settle the Passaic River pollution litigation, which the city and 11 other municipalities in Union County were involved. All 11 towns must pay the $95,000 settlement, ending the possibility of a trial and continued legal expenses. The lawsuit, according to one council member, could have led to a $10 to $20 billion lawsuit had it not been settled.
Another impact was $100,000 for technology support, which the council indicated was much needed. The improvements included updating city email access and software applications.
Cuts made to the 2013 spending plan included the fire fighter physical, only a 50 percent increase in the tree budget over last year, reducing the zoning budget by $18,000 and cutting fire hydrant service to $260,000.
One issue discussed involved working to get the county to front money for road resurfacing and improvement, but the city had other issues with the county.
According to Council President Richard Madden, high county taxes was due to the high equalization value for Summit, but he felt the remedy to this problem would be found at the state level.
Also brought up at budget hearings was the fact that it was important to get the word out “about how the county spends money.” Council members also felt that if Summit had a city-wide reassessment, they could get control over the county tax problem. But the overriding opinion of council was that everyone had to work towards eliminating county government through the state legislature.
The city also will vote on a proposed $10.4 million capital improvement plan for 2013 through 2018, and an additional $3 million for sewer and parking projects this year. Included was $3.4 million for infrastructure improvements, which also will be augmented by New Jersey Department of Transportation grants.
Another $3 million was allotted for updating the recreation center, with $600,000 of that number coming from the sale of city-owned property on Walnut Street. Another $2 million was earmarked for the joint dispatch center with New Providence, with $1.6 million funded by a federal grant.
There was also $240,000 going for a variety of projects within the police department, including a utility vehicle that would be used specifically for equipment, updating video equipment in police vehicles, upgrading security equipment at police headquarters and additional generators for the fire department.
Approximately $95,000 of the capital improvement money was allocated for a study and design plan for a new fire department headquarters.