I was the last mayor of Princeton Township: Consolidation works and we need to stop being afraid of it

In this June 25 editorial cartoon, Star-Ledger cartoonist Drew Sheneman comments on a question he's seen come up many times before in his career: "To merge or not to merge?"

In this June 25 editorial cartoon, Star-Ledger cartoonist Drew Sheneman comments on a question he's seen come up many times before in his career: "To merge or not to merge?"

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Roxbury/Mt. Arlington Consolidation Panel Seeks Extra Time

ROXBURY, NJ – A panel studying the pros and cons of consolidating local government and education services in Mount Arlington and Roxbury is asking the state for 1-year extension of its work.

So far, the group - officially called the Roxbury/Mt. Arlington Consolidation Commission – has determined that consolidating the municipalities will likely bring savings of at least $3 million per year to taxpayers.

The commission, formed three years ago, is at the end of its authorized lifespan. It met this week and voted unanimously in favor of seeking the deadline extension from the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA).

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Attending this week’s meeting was Mount Arlington Mayor Michael Stanzilis’ who, like his predecessor, Arthur Ondish, opposes consolidation. Some on the commission took issue with the mayor’s portrayal of a consolidation as being a “merger.”

“You understand the difference between a merger and a consolidation, right?” asked Commissioner Fran Day. “And yet you portray it as merger … I got your campaign stuff. I think you’re doing a disservice to the residents by saying ‘It’s a merger, It’s a merger.’”

Stanzilis said it was a matter of “semantics.”

Roxbury Councilman Robert DeFillippo, a member of the commission, said he – like Stanzilis – didn’t really see much difference between a merger and a consolidation. “The distinction you just made was Mount Arlington keeps its identity,” he said. “But the truth is, Mount Arlington becomes a community within the town of Roxbury.”

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Why merging small N.J. towns makes economic sense, says former gubernatorial candidate

By Tom MacDonald  –  WHYY
Jun 25, 2018, 8:05am

A push to consolidate some smaller towns and boroughs in New Jersey could be gaining traction, but it’s been years since the rare event of a merger.

One proposal calls for forcing towns with fewer than 5,000 residents to merge with a neighboring one. Gina Genovese, executive director of Courage to Connect NJ, said it makes economic sense.

“In New Jersey, we have 565 separate administrative structures performing 80 percent of the same services or more,” she said. “The redundancy is why our taxes are higher than most in the nation.”

Genovese ran for governor last year as an independent, largely on this issue.

Princeton Township and Borough merged in 2013, and four school districts merged a year after that. Without a state mandate and financial support, Genovese said, further mergers will be difficult to achieve.

While lawmakers are discussing the issue, “they need to do more than talk,” she said. “They need to get involved with Roxbury and Mount Arlington, where taxpayers have spent five years of their life to get a study that shows significant savings [from consolidation]. New Jersey has to make some bold moves.”

Go to whyy.org for some of the towns that could be merged based on their size.

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N.J. has spending problem, not revenue problem: Genovese Gina Genovese

New Jersey taxpayers pay almost $30 billion a year in property taxes to cover the costs of our inefficient, bloated and in some ways backward system for delivering services. That amount is 10 percent of what the other 49 states pay in property taxes. New Jersey has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. 

The current push by Trenton to increase income taxes, sales taxes and corporate taxes for more school funding, pension funding and more municipal aid will never be the answer.  It will actually add more overhead, increase our inefficient structure and have us paying $32 billion in no time.  

​Where is the concern of our elected officials and the voter outrage that the majority of residents have to work two to three months just to pay their property taxes?  Every local elected official and the governor should be looking at ways to reduce our overhead, make our services more efficient and reward innovation. The problem we must address is the current cost of providing local services.

 

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Christie, Property Taxes and a Tale of Two Mendhams

Chris Christie was elected in 2009 on a wave of voter discontent. New Jersey had become unaffordable for many residents, and the primary culprit driving up the cost of living was property taxes.

Candidate Christie said he’d change that by lowering taxes. One method he favored was consolidating  New Jersey’s  565 towns and 678 school districts.  Christie lives in Mendham Township, and he has said the next town over, Mendham Borough, is so close that he could kick a football from his backyard and reach it.

“We have two separate police departments and fire services and all those things we really don't need,” he said. “I think we should consolidate more.”

Property taxes in New Jersey are the highest in the country. The average statewide is more than $8,000 dollars. In Mendham it’s over $18,000 thousand. And it keeps going up, making New Jersey harder and harder to afford.

For decades, politicians and policy wonks have said the sheer number of municipalities is part of the problem. 

“The redundancy is just scary,” said Gina Genovese, executive director of Courage to Connect, a nonprofit that helps small towns merge in order to save money and keep property taxes down.

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CtoC NJ $7500 grant to Roxbury/Mt. Arlington Commission

Courage to Connect NJ Makes Substantial Grant to Roxbury – Mount Arlington Study Commission

In its role as New Jersey’s matchmaker of municipal entities, Courage to Connect NJ on Wednesday, September 13, 2017, will award the Roxbury Mount Arlington Study Commission a grant of $7,500 to sustain the commission’s study of a groundbreaking initiative in New Jersey– consolidating both municipalities (Roxbury and Mount Arlington) and their schools. In March 2014, members of the these two Morris County municipalities petitioned the New Jersey Department of Community affairs to form the Roxbury Mount Arlington Study Commission to consider the consolidation of Roxbury Township and its neighboring municipality of Mount Arlington.

The commission’s efforts, however, have been stymied, because of the lack of state funding to support the consolidation study activities. Even though the state has lent lip-service encouragement to the principle of consolidation, New Jersey has failed to lend pocket-book support.

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What can Syracuse and Onondaga County learn from other consolidations

PRINCETON, N.J. (WSYR-TV) - Whether you know it or not, our community is at a key moment in time that could impact generations to come.

The recommendation from the Consensus Commission on modern government made earlier this year would instantly make Syracuse the second largest city in New York State if voted on and approved this November.

However, there seems to be a variety of opinions on forming a new metropolitan government— joining the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County into one entity.

NewsChannel 9’s Jeff Kulikowsky traveled to Princeton, New Jersey, which was facing a critical crossroads much like us, and six years ago two Princetons decided to become one consolidated government.

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@Issue: Can municipal marriages work?

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Chad Goerner, the former Princeton Township mayor who was the driving force behind the successful consolidation of the Princetons — after six previous consolidation attempts failed — has published a new book, “A Tale of Two Tigers,” that describes how it was done, and what more needs to be done to make it easier for municipal mergers to occur elsewhere in New Jersey. He responded to a number of our questions aimed at better understanding the consolidation process, the pitfalls and the rewards.

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A Tale of Two Tigers

The former Princeton Twp Mayor Chad Goerner has recently published a book about the three attempts before there successful municipal consolidation of the Princetons' in 2013. Thank you for memorializing this amazing accomplishment and all the people who worked on consolidation over the years. Chad has now been serving as a CtoCNJ board member the past three years. May your leadership continue to inspire all of us.
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Christie gives himself more power to slash millions in N.J. municipal aid

By eliminating fewer than two dozen words from the state budget, Gov. Chris Christie has given himself the power to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in funding that New Jersey's municipalities use to hold down property taxes, local government experts say.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Holds News Conference To Address Traffic Scandal

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