As budget hearings continue in Trenton through the early spring, there is another important meeting that is also taking place. In my opinion, this meeting is more critical for the long-term fiscal strength of our state than anything taking place in the Statehouse.
It is a statewide municipal consolidation workshop scheduled for the morning of March 28 in East Brunswick, near the geographic center of New Jersey. The event, coordinated by non-partisan, non-profit Courage to Connect New Jersey, brings together people from throughout the state who are involved in local consolidation movements. One panel will focus on what is taking place in Merchantville and Cherry Hill, which have already formed a municipal consolidation commission between the two towns and is moving quickly through the state-mandated process. Another panel will focus on the Princetons, where residents and local leaders of both towns will explain how they built consensus for their future. There will also be talk of what is happening in Scotch Plains and Fanwood, in which citizens of both towns are the first in the state to take advantage of a 2007 municipal consolidation law, in which they petitioned the state for a study without the approval of local, elected leaders. Through consolidation, we will no longer spend our budget seasons focusing on where to cut and what services will be diminished, while taxes continue to climb. Through consolidation, we can begin the discussion of how we can take the best attributes from adjoining towns and create the type of affordable communities that our children will one day be proud to live in.