Funny thing is, when you ask a resident of Princeton Township or Princeton Borough where they live, the answer usually is simply “Princeton.” Well, now they have a chance to make that a reality. On Nov. 8, the two municipalities can write history (and rewrite maps) if they vote to consolidate.
The town’s new name? Princeton, of course. Should they merge? Yes. Will they? Who knows? The towns have been trying to marry for 60 years, but each time, residents have objected rather than hold their peace. Three efforts toward a proposed unification have failed, but times have changed dramatically, even since the last attempt in 1996. The two municipalities are sharing more services, state aid is drying up, unfunded mandates are siphoning tax dollars, the economy is sputtering (and likely will for years) and the Legislature has installed a 2 percent property tax cap. And now, Gov. Chris Christie has proposed making the upfront costs associated with consolidation easier to manage by allowing towns to stretch them over five years, with the state picking up the tab for the first year. In other words, there are more reasons than ever for the Princetons to book the chapel. Residents are asking themselves: Do we want to remain in separate but similar towns, drowning in taxes, or combine into one municipality and enjoy immediate and long-term savings? It’s a no-brainer, but New Jersey’s 566 municipalities and 605 school districts — even those as well-matched as the Princetons — have resisted coupling. Unapologetic dreamers, like Gina Genovese of Courage to Connect New Jersey, believe the tide is turning, however. Her nonprofit organization holds the hands of towns (Merchantville and Cherry Hill, for example) that want to merge.