FAIR LAWN — Gina Genovese thinks she can explain the New Jersey fiscal crisis with one number — and it’s not the total budget deficit, the cost of state pensions or the percentage that property taxes are going up this year. It’s the number 566.
That’s the number of municipalities in the state, each with its own staff of paid professionals that manages payrolls, salts streets, collects taxes and does all the other things it takes to keep a government running. And Genovese says that’s way too many. Speaking at a forum on regional consolidation at the Fair Lawn Public Library on Wednesday, one of several such events planned across the state, Genovese, the founder of a non-profit organization called Courage to Connect NJ and a former mayor of Long Hill in Morris County, said the single most effective cost-saving change that could happen in New Jersey would be the reduction of the number of local governments by about one-fifth. “We have 566 redundant governments, performing about 80 percent of the same services,” she said. “We all pay for this structure.”