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Voters’ Remorse Evident at Summit’s Budget Hearing, By Lacey Cotter
May 10, 2024

Campaign promises were broken on Tuesday night when Summit Common Council’s Republican majority passed the largest tax increase in a decade. Despite well-documented opposition to the budget by the Finance Chair, Councilmember Minegar, Council President Allen feigned surprise during the meeting regarding the lack of internal Council support for it. Minegar’s entreaties to find trade-offs in the budget were ignored and ultimately balked at from the dais at Tuesday’s marathon meeting.

Given the sharp increase in school and county taxes this year, the Council could have followed the lead of other neighboring towns and delivered a more modest budget. Offering some relief amid increased cost burdens would have been well received by the public. 

Summit’s property value increase last year was record breaking. This resulted in a collection surplus that could have been used to lessen the municipal tax burden. Instead, the Republican majority on Council proceeded to not only spend the windfall but also increase property taxes by the maximum, resulting in the largest tax levy increase in 10 years. Ignoring strong resident opposition and fellow Councilmembers’ calls for restraint, the Republican majority on Council steamrolled ahead, passing the budget along party lines. This, despite pleas from local residents who raised strong concerns on a wide variety of issues, from young parents questioning the reduction in support of playgrounds to residents decrying the burden on our seniors. 

Perhaps the most telling voices at the budget hearing were the ones not heard: there was an utter lack of support for the budget among the many meeting attendees. For the Republicans who can generally muster support for their initiatives, the silence of their supporters was deafening.

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Your Tax Bill Is About To Go Up—It’s Time To Speak Up, By Lacey Cotter
April 26, 2024

We all know that living in Summit is expensive. Property taxes are high for those who own homes and rents are out of control. Unfortunately, the new Republican majority is going to make it even more expensive. Council’s Republican majority recently lent support to the new municipal budget that will increase the operating budget by 2% in FY2024 and a 104.7% increase in the capital budget from last year. This, on top of a school budget increase of 2.956% and the County tax increase of 1.75%. In short, the taxes that you pay, directly or indirectly, are going up.

The Republican majority was well aware of the County and School budget increases and could have exercised some fiscal restraint to lessen the financial blow to Summit residents. Unlike last year’s Council, which faced costs outside their control—for example, State-mandated increases in employee healthcare and pension costs—this year’s Council faced no such pressures. In fact, because of the sharp increase in property values over the last year (up nearly $82M), if the current Council had decided to echo last year’s budget it would have resulted in a decrease in residents’ City tax bills. Make no mistake, the tax increase was a choice by Council’s Republican majority. 

When the Republican team of candidates ran for office last year, they continually painted the City’s finances as nothing but doom and gloom—but now that they’re in charge, it's spend, spend, spend. In a 180 from their previous position on the City’s finances, they now seem to think that the City is in fine fiscal shape, and even flush with cash. They don’t seem to care that it's not their money, or the City’s money, they’re spending. It’s the taxpayers’ money—our money—they’re spending so cavalierly.
 
Our two Democratic representatives on Council, Andy Minegar and Greg Vartan, spoke up about their concerns over the budget at the April 2 Council meeting. Greg stated, “Every tax dollar spent needs to be done so responsibly and with a great deal of scrutiny,” and asked the question that many of us are asking: “... is it really necessary to be raising taxes so much?” Andy expressed the concerns of many when he said, “I am also concerned about our city’s long-term affordability…Those of us who are feeling the cost-of-living increases in this city, I hear you.” 
 
If you are concerned about how your hard-earned tax dollars are being spent, please write to Council President Allen at LAllen@cityofsummit.org or Mayor Fagan at EFagan@cityofsummit.org. You can find the budget here.

  

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