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Quotes

"Imagine a web woven by a spider on LSD and you might see a frightening similarity to the map showing the jurisdictional outlines of our 566 municipalities in NJ. Present the current facts and statistics of the situation to a systems analyst and you can expect howls of laughter. Given a free hand to reconstruct and reconfigure the present map, no one would attempt to justify a replication of the existing system."

Alan J. Karcher,
Multiple Municipal Madness

Uncategorized

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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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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Princeton Township and Borough consolidation saves taxpayer money and entities’ uniqueness

This opinion editorial article, written by former Princeton Borough mayor Marvin Reed, originally appeared in The Times of Trenton

It’s easy to ask: If past referendums for municipal consolidation in Princeton were defeated, why should this year’s ballot turn out any differently?

It’s a good question. But there’s also a good answer: We’ve learned, we’ve grown, we’ve changed.

From past experiences such as ours and that of other municipalities, the state has significantly broadened and liberalized the consolidation statutes to make it less complicated to combine municipalities.

Admittedly, there has not been a rush to reform.

But Princeton is one of the few New Jersey towns that has tried to respond to the state’s initiative to become more efficient. The town has studied merger before, but this time, following new options and with a bit of state financial assistance, we have gained something from a full-scale professional study that included elected municipal officials as well as their administrators. Through the participants’ candid, practical advice, the resultant study shows how best to redeploy staff in a more direct, coordinated system.

Continue reading this article here

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NJ Monthly Poll Reveals 50% of Readers Support Municipal Consolidation

A new poll in NJ Monthly magazine shows that more than 50 percent of readers believe the best way to ease property taxes is to consolidate some of our 566 municipalities. School funding took in 24.31 percent and Mandated Shared Services took in 10.5 percent.

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Fanwood Would Retain Identity if Merged with Scotch Plains

This letter to the editor, written by Fred Lange, Ilse Heinemeyer and Donald Parisi, originally appeared in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Times.

In response to your August 11 article (Scotch Plains-Fanwood Times) titled, “Fanwood Council Spurns Merger, Suggests Shared Service,” it is important to know that this effort was started by residents of Scotch Plains and Fanwood who understand that our two communities are really one from our perspective. We have used the services of Courage to Connect New Jersey to help us use the state’s Municipal Consolidation Act.

Contrary to the reporting in your newspaper, Courage to Connect New Jersey is not “forcing” our municipalities into consolidating. The non-profit, non-partisan organization is simply walking our local grassroots groups through steps to explore ways to run municipal government more efficiently, including consolidation with adjoining towns.

As a local affiliate of Courage to Connect New Jersey, our group of volunteers in both Fanwood and Scotch Plains are now collecting the signatures needed to form a consolidation study between the two towns. We now have over 800 signatures. We hope that mayors and other elected officials in both towns get involved in this very important initative.

By signing this petition, residents are not voicing their support of a consolidation. Rather, the petition is just to launch an independent, non-political study of the pros and cons of merging Scotch Plains and Fanwood.

We are involved because we believe shared-service agreements are limited in reducing redundancies in municipal government. This study, when conducted with the oversight of the state Department of Community Affairs, would identify many other savings afforded through the full consolidation of the two towns. An aside: Fanwood mayor Collen Mahr expressed concern in your newspaper that Fanwood would somehow lose its identity if there was a merger down the road. Some might consider that a political scare tactic. That fact is that towns like Short Hills, Colonia and Basking Ridge have their own identities – yet they are sections of other municipalities.

As we move down this road, I hope that local officials do not cloud a very complex issue by alleging that Fanwood would not continue to be Fanwood. That just isn’t so. We are focused on ending the duplication in the municipal structure, not how towns identify themselves. To learn more, please visit www.couragetoconnect.org. We did.

 

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N.J. towns should find courage to merge into 125 regional ‘town clusters’

This opinion-editorial by Courage to Connect NJ Executive Director Gina Genovese originally appeared in The Times of Trenton

For more than 100 years, residents and government officials have been talking about the need to end the redundancy in New Jersey by consolidating municipalities and school districts.

Over the decades, this well-documented problem is becoming dire. The current structure of 566 municipalities and 591 operating school districts defies all logic – from both a business and an economic perspective.

Yet, as we enter the second half of 2011 – with ever-increasing property taxes the paramount concern of residents throughout New Jersey – we still refuse to make the hard decisions.

But with many tax-weary residents fleeing the state and businesses hesitant to relocate here, we are digging New Jersey deeper and deeper into a hole. Together, we need to focus on how we are going to get out of it.

We need to think about what streamlined local government would look like. Instead of 566 separate municipalities, we could have about 125 efficient “town clusters.” Just imagine the millions of dollars in savings that would be realized when we have 440 fewer town halls in operation.

Think about what an efficient regional school district structure looks like. Instead of nearly 600 operating school districts – requiring $8 billion in annual state aid – there would be 125 districts that match the new municipal boundaries.

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School Consolidation Study Funds Still Up in the Air

On June 14, the first-ever education summit took place at Mendham High School, and saw 25 elected school and government officials from Washington Township, the Chesters and Mendhams come together to discuss funding formulas and possible redistricting among the schools in the municipalities.

The topic of a feasibility study was brought up late in the meeting and the cost it would force upon the taxpayers within the five sending districts. The study would be used to disseminate details and demographic data essential in figuring out which direction the municipalities should take with regards to changes in funding, consolidation or dissolution.

A feasibility study, according to members of the summit’s dais as well as Gina Genovese of Courage to Connect New Jersey, costs upwards of $50,000.

James Button, the Mendham Township representative to the West Morris Regional Board of Education, spoke to the panel–as a member of the audience–and said that he met with both Governor Chris Christie and acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf recently. Button said that after explaining the region’s situation to them, Cerf said, repeatedly, that he would “take care of” a feasibility study, if it came to that.

This article originally appeared in the Long Valley Patch

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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:




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