Local officials are starting to prepare their annual budgets — the first since Gov. Chris Christie imposed his 2 percent property tax cap — and it’s clear that dramatic changes are near. Some communities will find the only way to avoid bankruptcy is to eliminate their local administration and merge with neighboring towns.
It is well-documented that the Garden State has too much local government. With 566 municipalities crammed between the Hudson and the Delaware, New Jersey has more towns than California and more towns per capita than any other state in the country. This fractured system leads to redundancy, waste and — ultimately — sky-high property taxes.
For more than a century, state lawmakers have been talking about ways to encourage municipal consolidation. Yet since 1952, just one pair of towns has merged.
At Courage to Connect New Jersey, a nonpartisan organization that focuses on encouraging municipal mergers, we have watched numerous towns try to consolidate, only to see them stumble on unexpected roadblocks.
With the state on the brink of bankruptcy, the Legislature must pass a “consolidation toolkit” to make it easier for towns to join together.