Whats going on in Summit, Mike McTernan, Council President

What’s Going on in Summit
February 6, 2017

Dear Neighbor,

The start of a New Year is a busy time, and that holds true for the City as well.  Please find below an update on some of the important issues effecting our City.  Again, any opinions expressed are my own.  This is not an official note from the Common Council (CC) or the City of Summit.

Budget Season:  The City kicked off the budget season having certified its ratable base with the County, which is the assessed value of all the taxable land in Summit.  The tax you owe is figured by taking the total tax the City, the Schools and the County need and multiplying that by the assessed value of your property, divided by the ratable base. A rising ratable base, which reflects voluntary investment by people in their property, is good for everyone else, who pay a smaller tax all else being equal.  In Summit this year unfortunately, our ratable base fell .1%, or $4.5 mm, as a lower assessment to Celgene West (the old Merck property), offset about $25 mm in other investment in town.  So effectively, any % change in taxes raised will result in a similar % change to your tax bill.  Over the next two months, we will start to see budget proposals from the City, the Board of Education (BOE) and the County.

STA Night of Action:  Speaking of taxes, click here for information on the Summit Taxpayers Association’s (STA) Night of Action.  STA is organizing a Summit resident excursion to our Freeholder meeting on February 23rd to respectively petition the Freeholders restrain spending below a 2% increase.  The ever-increasing share of taxes that go to Elizabeth (+38.6% for the County versus +3.5% for the City the last 6 years), continues to crowd out spending locally as CC and the BOE make tough choices to safeguard affordability for all residents of Summit.

Affordable Housing Settlement:  At the February 1st meeting, CC approved a Planning Board resolution adopting an Amended Housing and Fair Share Plan.  The agreement continues Summit’s long commitment to develop affordable housing by creating eight overlay zones, which if developed, must have a 15-20% set aside for affordable housing.  Importantly nothing else changes in the underlying zoning rules.  In addition, the City has agreed to promote the development of 50 affordable housing units over the next 10 years on a non-binding, best effort basis.  The plan, consistent with the recently adopted Master Plan and past practices, is based upon a settlement the City reached with Fair Share Housing this fall, and now must go back to a judge for final approval.  The convoluted process ultimately will shield the City from builder remedy lawsuits, which bust local zoning laws for developers wanting to build affordable housing.

Morris Avenue Bridge Replacement:  Work is proceeding again on the bridge.  However, with the four-month shutdown last year and the obligatory delays, work should finish either late this year, or early 2018.  For those interested, April 2017 was the originally scheduled completion date!

Community Center:  The city introduced an Ordinance to approve a $6.5 mm bond for the renovation and expansion of our 1954 vintage Community Center, which serves seniors, kids and everybody in between.  It will be voted on at the February 14th meeting.  As a public/private partnership, the community, led by fundraisers Drew Maldonado and Jude Avelino, have raised over $1.3 mm to support the venture.  While the original cost estimate for the project proved to be low, higher donations than thought and the prospects of grants will mitigate the increased cost to the taxpayer for this once in a generation and long overdue investment, hopefully to begin this year.  Mark your calendars for a meeting at the Community Center at 7:30 pm on March 2nd to discuss the project with the public.
Tatlock Renovations:  Replacement of the bleachers are proceeding as Investors Bank Field continues its facelift.  Last year new, professional grade turf was installed and this year both sets of bleachers and the press box will be replaced.  Unfortunately for my fellow lacrosse and track and field fans, this project will be continuing throughout the spring.  Away bleachers will be completed first, so home fans will have to sit in unfamiliar territory for some part of the season.  Work is scheduled to be completed by graduation in June.

Civility in Summit:  At the Mayor’s Forum for Diversity this morning, a quarterly meeting that brings together community members of all backgrounds to discuss issues affecting different segments of our diverse City and importantly, ideas to make Summit better for everyone, Reverend Harrield, from Wallace Chapel and a member of the Inter-Faith Council, spoke of how special Summit is.  To paraphrase the Reverend, who listed a long litany of things Summit does well, we should toot our own horn sometimes because no one else will!  One of those things I think we do well is to maintain a level of civility in Summit, for when we do disagree, we discuss our differences as friends and neighbors first and foremost.  As we can see from watching TV or looking at Facebook, that doesn’t happen in a lot of places.  As an elected official, I know I appreciate it and I fervently hope it continues!

It’s been a year since I started these updates and I’m happy to hear people continue to find them informative.  Feedback is always welcome and keep the referrals coming!  They can contact me at mmcterna@gmail.com and I will add them to the distribution list.


Mike McTernan
Council President