Summit Council Projects Budget Increase for Municipal Purposes at $1.47 on Average City Home Assessed at $410,000; Workshop Explores Proposed Reductions and Additions
Thursday, February 21, 2013 • 7:21am
SUMMIT, NJ--Summit City Administrator Chris Cotter at Wednesday’s second budget workshop session of the Summit Common Council presented a 2013 spending plan “snapshot” showing a 0.04 percent increase in taxes for municipal purposes. This would result in taxes of $3,693.26 on the average home, assessed at $410,000, or $1.47 more in levies for municipal purposes.
Under the current proposal, according to Cotter, there would be six major areas of increased spending:
- $100,000 more for technology upgrades in the administrative area.
- $20,000 for a part-time communications specialist to help upgrade the city website and better communicate the city’s messages.
- $50,000 for a full-time program specialist in the department of community programs.
- $5,000 for increased firefighter training.
- $3,000 for increased equipment maintenance in the department of community services.
Beth Kinney. director of community services, said the overall 2013 cost of technological upgrades will actually be $250,000, including $150,000 already budgeted.
She added the city staff has already been working with Millenium Communications, its consulting firm, to decide the specific upgrades that are needed to bring the city up to speed.
The $250,000 figure breaks down to $170,000 for consulting services, $5,000 for networks, $30,000 for equipment, $5,000 for supplies, $23,000 fir licensing, $10,000 for software and $7,000 for training.
Councilman Patrick Hurley said while advances in technology should allow for a “smaller headcount” they also should mean more mobility for the city staff.
Councilman Thomas Getzendanner, while agreeing with the need for technological upgrades, said the ultimate goal should be reduction in the city staff from 200 to 190 employees.
Kinney also said the increased technology would allow for more virtualization, fewer servers, use of GPS for tracking fuel use and more efficient administration of the Uniform Construction Code.
Community Programs Director Judith Josephs said Kinney did not stand alone in her quest for new technology.
She added, “The rest of the staff support these proposals. We are being held back from doing the job we should be doing due to aging equipment.”
Josephs added that her department’s increase requests were the first overall requests she had made since her arrival in Summit in 2007.
She noted the department now is raising money to support the Senior Connections bus service, helping man the office of emergency management, raising private funds to support the city’s Fourth of July celebration and bringing grants in the city for recreation programs. The director said the grant figure now totals $85,000.
The additional staff member is needed, she said, to free up her time from program management to do more fundraising and promotional activities.
Councilman Albert Dill, Jr. complemented Josephs on her staff’s many accomplishments. He added, however, that he had disgusted with her the possibility of having the new staff member also perform the city communications assistant function, thus cutting down on some of the proposed budgetary increases.
Fire Chief Joseph Houck said the increased training funds were needed to prepare junior staff members to take over for superior officers who would be retiring in the next few years.
Councilman Robert Rubino, a physician, however, questioned the need for the department to continue to provide funding for a contracted physician to perform “fit for duty” physicals on firefighters when it was possible for the firefighters to have physicals done by their private physicians under city health plans.
Houck replied the contracted physicals meet standards set by the National Fire Protection Association and it might be difficult to train separate private physicians to meet these standards.
When Rubino countered that standards in medicine evolve to meet changing circumstances, Houck said the department kept up with standards as they changed.
On another controversial matter, library funding, David Bomgaars, chair of the council finance committee, suggested that the new library director could find room in her $2 million budget to finance reopening the Summit Public Library on Sundays as it had in the past and which the public has requested. Library officials have said the Sunday closings may have to continue due to a $32,000 statutory decrease in the amount of municipal support for the library. State statute dictated a decrease due to a decrease last year in the assessed value of Summit properties.
Mayor Ellen Dickson said, however, because four top employees left the library in the past year there should be more funding available in the existing budget. The council said it could probably wait for a March report from the new library director before deciding whether to supplement the statutorily-mandated funding level.
In response to Getzendanner’s continuing suggestion for a citywide revaluation, Council President Richard Madden said two city auditors, the city attorney and New Providence’s chief financial officer all told him it was better to wait until other communities in Union County do their revaluations rather than being the first so Summit could decide how it would affect the city.
At the suggestion of Councilman Gregory Drummond the council decided the Budget Workshop was not the proper forum to discuss a citywide revaluation. Drummond requested that the Council hear from professionals on the matter, as well as public input.
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