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"The pressure for consolidation begins when residents begin to recognize a problem with the current municipal structure, either because of rising taxes, lowering quality of services, or growing environmental problems."

Home Rule

Courage to Connect NJ

Scotch Plains/Fanwood making history

This opinion-editorial article written by Courage to Connect NJ Executive Director Gina Genovese originally appeared in the Courier News.


Scotch Plains and Fanwood residents are making their mark on New Jersey’s history. Never before have the citizens in two adjacent towns petitioned the state to study the benefits of municipal consolidation. With petitions completed and submitted to both towns, this is democracy at its best.

 

In the past year, there have been enormous strides toward consolidation in New Jersey, as residents are tired of wasting money on redundant government. Citizens in Merchantville petitioned and successfully created a study commission, working with the mayor of Cherry Hill. Earlier this month, residents of the Princetons voted to merge their towns, with the support of the local mayors and governing bodies.

 

Scotch Plains and Fanwood would be the first communities in which the residents — not the elected governments — are taking the steps toward consolidation. Residents in Fanwood and Scotch Plains created a group called “Courage to Reconnect,” and led a petition drive in both towns to form a study commission.
Courage to Reconnect is a leader in the consolidation movement. It is a leader in making New Jersey sustainable. It is using state law to mobilize local residents into controlling their own destiny.

 

The citizens who spearheaded the petition and all those who signed it should be applauded for their visionary leadership. They are taking the steps to see what a consolidated Scotch Plains and Fanwood would look like, and if it is the right move for the towns.

 

While Scotch Plains and Fanwood are the first to complete this citizen-run petition drive, they are not the last. Courage to Connect New Jersey, a non-profit, non-partisan organization, is now guiding nine other groups around the state in seven counties. Most if not all will be starting the petition process in January.

 

This is an amazing time for taxpayers in New Jersey to take control of how their tax dollars are used and to identify efficiencies that benefit them. The residents of Scotch Plains and Fanwood should be lauded as leaders in this effort.

 

Continue reading this article

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Pohatcong Township Mayor Jim Kern III pushes for Phillipsburg-area municipal consolidation

Talks of a municipal merger between Phillipsburg-area governments have begun.

 

Pohatcong Township Mayor Jim Kern III hosted a forum last week to discuss consolidating Alpha, Phillipsburg and Pohatcong, Lopatcong and Greenwich townships.

 

“There are 566 towns in the state of New Jersey and 566 mayors in the state,” Kern said after the forum. “It’s crazy the amount of duplication between services.”

 

The consolidation would result in one governing body, one mayor, one council, one administrator, one attorney, one land use board, one chief financial officer, one tax assessor and one court system for the Phillipsburg-area, according to Kern.

 

“There would be no reduction in services and the town would be able to operate at lower costs,” Kern said, adding he vowed to explore all possibilities to lower taxes when he was elected earlier this year.

 

Kern invited Gina Genovese, executive director of Millington, N.J.-based Courage to Connect New Jersey, to speak at the forum.

 

“Courage to Connect is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that addresses the financial state of New Jersey and difficulty of municipalities to deliver services and not raise taxes,” Genovese said in an interview after the forum, noting the organization has existed for two years. “The forum is a great way to start the conversation, air concerns and talk about consolidation.”

 

 

This article originally appeared in The Express-Times

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Editorial: In this economy, consolidation could be right move for NJ towns

This editorial originally appeared in The Star-Ledger. To read the full article, click here


Funny thing is, when you ask a resident of Princeton Township or Princeton Borough where they live, the answer usually is simply “Princeton.” Well, now they have a chance to make that a reality. On Nov. 8, the two municipalities can write history (and rewrite maps) if they vote to consolidate.

 

The town’s new name? Princeton, of course.

 

Should they merge? Yes. Will they? Who knows?

 

The towns have been trying to marry for 60 years, but each time, residents have objected rather than hold their peace. Three efforts toward a proposed unification have failed, but times have changed dramatically, even since the last attempt in 1996.

 

The two municipalities are sharing more services, state aid is drying up, unfunded mandates are siphoning tax dollars, the economy is sputtering (and likely will for years) and the Legislature has installed a 2 percent property tax cap.

 

And now, Gov. Chris Christie has proposed making the upfront costs associated with consolidation easier to manage by allowing towns to stretch them over five years, with the state picking up the tab for the first year.

 

In other words, there are more reasons than ever for the Princetons to book the chapel.
Residents are asking themselves: Do we want to remain in separate but similar towns, drowning in taxes, or combine into one municipality and enjoy immediate and long-term savings?

 

It’s a no-brainer, but New Jersey’s 566 municipalities and 605 school districts — even those as well-matched as the Princetons — have resisted coupling. Unapologetic dreamers, like Gina Genovese of Courage to Connect New Jersey, believe the tide is turning, however. Her nonprofit organization holds the hands of towns (Merchantville and Cherry Hill, for example) that want to merge.

 

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Gina Genovese featured in Star-Ledger Q&A

Below is a Q&A that originally appeared in The Star-Ledger on Oct. 31, 2011. To read the full article, click here

A 1934 New York Times article, bemoaning New Jersey’s inability to merge inefficient and redundant towns, says “it is up to organizations of citizens to carry forward the movement without the aid of the State.”

So, how’s that been working? Not very well, actually.

Seventy-seven years later, New Jersey has 566 municipalities and 605 school districts, and has become a model for costly and inefficient municipal government. In other words, little has changed.

But Gina Genovese insists the state finally is on the verge of a consolidation movement, and her organization, Courage to Connect New Jersey, is a driving force behind potential municipal mergers. Genovese, who spoke with Star-Ledger Editorial Board member Kevin Manahan, will be watching closely as Princeton Borough and Princeton Township vote on a historic consolidation on Nov. 8.

 

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Budgetary struggles force consideration of municipality and service consolidations

Could consolidation among some of New Jersey’s 566 municipalities bring taxpayer relief?

Budgetary struggles statewide are leading citizens and elected officials to wonder.

“We’re all working to try to make an equitable, efficient system, but, clearly, 566 redundant structures performing 80 to 90 percent of the same services is unsustainable,” said former Long Hill Township Mayor Gina Genovese, executive director of the nonprofit organization Courage to Connect NJ.

“Frankly, it’s a burden none of us can afford anymore,” Genovese said. “We can’t keep heading on the course we’re on; we have to make significant changes.”

Courage to Connect NJ was founded by Genovese as a resource to educate elected officials and the public about the expensive impact of over-reliance on “home rule” — and the potential efficiencies to be found through resident-supported municipal consolidation.

In Cumberland, Salem and Gloucester counties, approximately 511,270 residents live in a total of 53 municipalities. But only 14 of these tri-county municipalities host populations with more than 10,000 residents, and nearly half the townships and boroughs have fewer than 4,000 residents.

“Fragmentation is never the way,” Genovese said. “Consolidation has been talked about in New Jersey for over 100 years — this is absolutely not a new idea.”

 

Continue reading this article in the News of Cumberland County

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Public Forum to be Held in Pohatcong on November 2 to Discuss Governor’s Municipal Consolidation Proposal

POHATCONG, N.J. – Residents of Pohatcong and surrounding communities are invited to an open forum on Wednesday, November 2 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss Governor Christie’s proposal to encourage municipal mergers and what it means for New Jersey.

 

The Governor’s proposal, released at the end of September, called for the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs to pay 20 percent of the cost of a merger between any two municipalities in New Jersey and to allow the cost to be spread out over five years. Over the long run, municipal consolidation will save taxpayers’ money; this proposal is designed to eliminate, or at least mitigate, the short term expense.

“Sensible, locally-driven consolidation must be supported by state government, and that is exactly what we are doing,” Christie said in a statement accompanying the proposal.

The forum is planned by Pohatcong Mayor James R. Kern III, who reached out to Gina Genovese, executive director of Courage to Connect New Jersey, a non-partisan, non-profit organization, to arrange the open forum. The goal of both the meeting and the organization is to help educate the community about the need for a more efficient municipal structure for New Jersey. The program will take place at the Pohatcong School, 240 Rt. 519.

 

In addition to discussing the Governor’s proposal, Genovese will talk about the second edition of “Courage to Connect New Jersey Guidebook: The Tools for Municipal Consolidation,” a comprehensive manual that provides step-by step measures that residents and local officials can take to form municipal consolidation study commissions and, ultimately, consolidate communities.

 

Genovese has presented similar programs at the request of residents of numerous municipalities across New Jersey. The program is free and open to the public; residents of Pohatcong and the surrounding communities are all encouraged to attend.

“Public employee costs have been going up while there are numerous duplications of services between smaller neighboring towns with limited budgets,” Mayor Kern said. “If we were able to come together and it would directly deliver some taxpayer savings, it’s something we should at least be talking about.”

When asked about the possibility that a consolidation between Pohatcong and a neighboring town could cost him his position, Mayor Kern said, “I didn’t run for Mayor for a job. I ran to do the right thing for taxpayers.”

To learn more about Courage to Connect New Jersey or for a free copy of the guidebook, visit the organization’s website: www.CourageToConnectNJ.org or email info@couragetoconnectnj.org.

 

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Group Asks Locals to Consider Municipal Consolidation at Forum

The question of whether New Jersey municipalities should consider consolidation as a money-saving effort as the state faces economic challenges was discussed during a Tuesday night forum in Waretown.


The event, which was organized by the Waretown Democratic Club, was prompted in part by Gov. Chris Christie’s proposal late last month for state funding to cover the cost of mergers between New Jersey municipalities and drew Southern Ocean County residents and officials, including some from Barnegat, Ocean and Long Beach Island.

 
Under legislation proposed by the governor Sept. 30, the state Department of Community Affairs would pay 20 percent of the cost of consolidation.

 
Gina Genovese, executive director of Courage to Connect New Jersey, a non-partisan, non-profit organization pushing for a more efficient municipal structure in the state, told those in attendance that consolidation may be a viable solution to New Jersey’s economic woes.

 
“Our state is in trouble,” she said. “We as taxpayers are finding it difficult to stay up with taxes escalating every year.”

 

Click here to continue reading this article in the Lacey Patch.

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Princetons’ voters can set an example for rest of state

The residents of the Princetons have the opportunity to make history in New Jersey on Nov. 8 when they vote, once again, on the issue of consolidating Princeton Borough and Princeton Township.The Princetons can become a model for the state, showing municipalities how to consolidate, from the earliest planning stages through implementation of a completed merger. They are poised to forever be known in New Jersey for their leadership and courage to connect.
These towns have been at it a long time. Through their previous three attempts at consolidation, laws have been changed, and new policies have been created to address the residents’ concerns. These efforts have supported the growing municipal consolidation movement in New Jersey.

Just last week, Gov. Chris Christie threw his support behind municipal consolidation efforts, by proposing the state invest in helping towns merge, spreading the costs over five years with the state offering to pay for the first year’s expenses.

The Princeton Consolidation Commission has recommended consolidation. It based its decision on a comprehensive consolidation study that estimated the initial average savings would range from $200 to $240 per household. The savings are expected to increase to $400-$500 over the next three years as redundant staff positions are combined, and extra assets are sold or re-utilized.

A merged Princeton would continually be finding new ways in which to save money and better serve its residents, while taxpayers throughout the rest of the state face up to a 2 percent tax increase each year, with little opportunity for improving services and local infrastructure.

But will Princeton voters choose to lower their taxes by coming together, or continue to see their taxes rise as two separate entities?
This opinion-editorial article by Gina Genovese originally  appeared in The Press of Atlantic City. To download a full PDF, click here

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Will the Princetons be Trailblazers or Left Behind?

The residents of the Princetons have the opportunity to make history in New Jersey on Nov. 8 when they vote, once again, on the issue of consolidating Princeton Township and Princeton Borough.

In the next few weeks, the Princetons can become a model for the state, showing municipalities how to consolidate; from the earliest planning stages through implementation of a completed merger. The Princetons are poised to forever be known in New Jersey for their leadership and courage to connect.

These towns have been at it a long time. Through their previous three attempts at consolidation, laws have been changed and new policies have been created to address the residents’ concerns. These efforts have supported the growing municipal consolidation movement in New Jersey.

Just last week, Gov. Chris Christie threw his support behind municipal consolidation efforts, by proposing the state invest in helping towns merge, spreading the costs over five years with the state offering to pay for the first year’s expenses.

The Princeton Consolidation Commission has recommended consolidation. They based their decision on the comprehensive consolidation study which estimated that the initial average savings would range from $200 to $240 per household. The savings are expected to increase to $400 to $500 over the next three years as redundant staff positions are combined and extra assets are sold or re-utilized.

To continue reading this article, click here

 

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Courage to Connect NJ Applauds Christie Administration for Municipal Consolidation Initiative

Gina Genovese, the founder of Courage to Connect NJ, issued the following statement today regarding the announcement of a legislative proposal put forth by the Christie administration that would cover 20 percent of the cost of merging two towns.

“We salute the Christie administration for proposing a bold initiative that we hope will encourage municipalities to consolidate. We’ve said all along that the drive to consolidate should come from the residents and not be mandated by the state. But the state definitely has a role in encouraging and facilitating mergers.

Ultimately this proposal could lead to significant property tax savings for the residents of New Jersey, especially those living in small towns where fewer households cover the cost of supporting an entire municipal structure.”

Read more about the proposal in The Star-Ledger

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Chad Goerner interview on NJTV:




Gina shares insights on NJTV:




Princeton's new Mayor Liz Lempert addresses the community:

Mayor Liz Lempert Video (click image to watch on nj.com; video is below slideshow)


Princeton Township Mayor Chad Goerner featured on NJTV:




Executive Director of CtoCNJ Discusses Consolidation on NJTV:

NJToday
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WMBC Introduces CtoCNJ:




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Fox News 29 in Cinnaminson:




CNBC in Woodbridge:




Gina's "Can NJ Connect?" video:




Abbott and Costello take a humorous look at what we don’t know about our own communities: