Council, School Board Unveil Preliminary Budgets

Both sides discuss challenges they face as they try to find cash to maintain programs residents expect from city, schools.

The Summit Common Council and Board of Education held their annual joint meeting in council chambers to present their annual budgets and express 

Council's Budget: City Administrator Chris Cotter handled the presentation for the council, warning that Summit faces challenges controlling property taxes to keep them within the 2 percent cap. Cotter said that a limit on raising revenue for the city “puts more stress on local budgets,” particularly affecting the city budget while residents' demands for services increase.

Council President Richard Madden said that 50 percent of the city's $123 million budget is used for Summit public schools.

BOE Budget: Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nathan Parker led the presentation and outlined challenges faced by the BOE. Parker said the BOE is particularly concerned about:

  • Overcrowding at the Franklin School, which had to convert a computer lab into a classroom to make room for students;
  • The high-school auditorium remodeling project which is coming in over budget.
  • Parker said that for the Summit school system to be on par with other exceptional public school system’s such as neighboring Millburn’s the issue of all-day kindergarten would have to be examined.

District business administrator Lou Pepe said the BOE has trimmed about $3.9 million through personnel reductions (a savings of $893,925) and changes in oil consumption for heating schools, among other measures.

Impact on residents: A preliminary tax increase on a home costing around $410,000 in Summit would be around $30.27 a year, but Pepe pointed out that the number could go up or down depending on the amount of state aid Summit receives from the state.

In other news:

Council held a regular meeting after the session with the BOE and rendered three decisions:

  • The board voted 6-0 to authorize the sale of the youth center property on 2 Walnut Street. Councilman Drummond recused himself from the vote.
  • A safety ordinance also was passed that would limit parking and remove a crosswalk at the Lincoln-Hubbard School, an initiative that was spearheaded by a task force set up by the school's PTO.
  • Council passed finance-consent agenda item that sought to cancel the 2012 property tax for a local veteran who is 100 percent disabled.  The consent item would cancel $11, 484.53 for a veteran who is claiming battlefield disability on a property bought 17 years ago. Madden, a former Marine, said the resident meets all the requirements for being deemed disabled.The proposal passed 6-1, with Councilman Tom Getzendanner casting the lone dissenting vote.





Tyler D February 23, 2012 at 02:50 PM
I predict that there will be more taxes on home owners. This has nothing to do with quality of education and everything to do with getting more money. Define "overcrowding." This term and others are always thrown out there to get more money. How much should it cost per student for a good education? The city and the schools should consider nothing less than a 10% cut in their budgets. Also, cut costs through efficiency. Also, the rest of us are getting pay cuts or losing our jobs while teachers get a raise and more benefits. Teacher pay should be frozen. If this is not acceptable, then residents should have a 50% property tax reduction if they send their kids to a private school. Then, you will see more affordable education show up in Summit with competition among private schools.
AStar Gazer February 23, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Shame, shame on you Tom G. Having veterans, especially 100% battlefield disabled, adds to the community. Have you no heart?
Max-M February 23, 2012 at 04:32 PM
•The high-school auditorium remodeling project which is coming in over budget of which the BOE was awarded at $580,167 RODS grant. The taxpayers would be responsible for the remaining $870,250 of the $1,450,417 total project cost. This project was to address unsafe stage conditions and replacing all auditorium seating. I do not understand BOE priorities. I can certainly get behind addressing safety issues - but - replacing seats while reducing seating capacity? Why incur this expense given budget constraints? Could there have been a better allocation of monies? I certainly think so and now the taxpayer will be on the hook for the completely expected cost over-run. Come on Dr. Parker - sometimes you just have to say no to your pet projects.
Pat Savage February 23, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Star Gazer, you are 100% correct, no heart in TG and besides that, it is a NJ Real Estate law “New Jersey's Constitution and Tax Laws provide that certain totally and permanently disabled war veterans or the surviving spouses of such disabled war veterans or the surviving spouses of servicepersons who died on wartime active duty be exempt from real estate taxes on their principal residence and the lot on which that residence is situated.” Also, Tyler D you are out of your mind thinking that families who send their kids to private schools should get a tax break. Why? You live in Summit because it is a great town with a good school system. If that is not good enough for you move to Plainfield. Houses are just as big but unfortunately the town isn’t as nice because of what you are proposing here. And don’t forget teachers, and all public employees PAY TAXES TOO! They are NOT on the exempt list… just the man who is 100% disabled for fighting for our freedom.
Tyler D February 23, 2012 at 06:06 PM
So all the wealthy people in Summit who do not have children in public school and those who have no children should help pay for the public schools for the other wealthy people in Summit who do send their children to public school? Also, I never said anything about the public employees and the taxes they pay. The average city of summit employee makes 130K. They can afford more than I in taxes. Supporting info for this last point: http://summit.patch.com/articles/council-approved-city-employees-salaries-in-june
Pat Savage February 23, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Yes, all the wealthy and the not so wealthy need to pay. I am not wealthy, nor do I have kids. I am in my 40's and own a house in the "east side" of town. I will gladly pay taxes to live in a nice town even if I am not using the school system. We ALL have to pay for what we have, wealthy or not. It is what it is, especially if you want to live in a nice town. You may not have said anything about public employees and the taxes but you took a good dig at their compensation. $130k (AVERAGE) is not all that much money in this world/town and we all chose our professions so if you are wealthy or once were and lost your job or not, don't come down on teachers or public employees because they have job security and a steady salary. It's not like any of the public employees are ever going to get some HUGE bonus or raise, all they get is an average salary for teaching (or raising) kids that will one day be what our world is about.
AStar Gazer February 24, 2012 at 09:56 AM
If you are wealthy, e. g. 1%'s, and live in Summit, with kids, you send your kids to private school. It is a proven fact, private education provides a better education and enables better and more choices for your children. Are Summit public schools 'bad', of course not, as far as 'public' goes. Maybe a look at Charles Murry's recent book will enlighten a few.
Tyler D February 24, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Paying for what I have is exactly what I would like. The problem is that I get no choice at all. The money is taken from me by threat of force. It is spent on someone elses wants and not mine. It is given to schools in which I have no choice or control. You cannot assume that just because the government takes the money and spends it "for us" means that we would not do the same with our own money. Also, $130K is more than I make. I still manage to barely afford the property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, etc.


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