For the most frequently asked questions about Courage to Connect NJ, please browse questions and corresponding answers below.
- What is this organization about?
- Who is behind it?
- Why was it formed?
- What is the main point that CtoCNJ wants to get across?
- What are your qualifications to make these recommendations?
- What research was done for you to reach these conclusions?
- Why now?
- What is the long-term goal?
- Won’t your plan reduce municipal services?
- Haven’t mergers been unsuccessful in the past?
- Should the state mandate it?
- What would a “connected” municipality look like?
- Will my town lose its name or identity?
- How much money will I save?
- Mayors and Councils don’t cost any real money, yet you want to get rid of these hard-working public servants. Where are the real savings?
- How many municipalities are there in NJ?
- What is a CDP?
- What is an unincorporated community?
- What is a municipality?
- What is Home Rule?
Courage To Connect NJ was created to educate the public about the current structure of New Jersey and to introduce ways to reduce to the high cost of property taxes in maintaining 565 municipalities. The solutions include connecting two or more municipalities under one administration while strengthening the individuality of each community.
Gina Genovese is the Executive Director of Courage To Connect NJ. Gina was mayor of Long Hill Township in 2006 and felt first hand the challenge of creating a working budget for a small municipality. It was nearly impossible to increase efficiency and control costs when only 3,000 homes were paying for a local government that could have serviced many more households. Gina brought her 28 years of experience as a successful local business owner, educator and former elected official to create Courage To Connect NJ.
Gina found that the methods used over the past 40 years to induce municipalities to consolidate never addressed the loss of identity felt by the residents when a proposed merger was attempted. Gina felt that an independent, non-partisan organization was needed to provide a way for New Jerseyans to get information, discuss solutions and become involved in creating a more sensible and cost effective structure for the state.
New Jersey is in trouble. Every cost cutting measure has been tried both locally and state-wide. The next steps on the current path would result in severely reduced services without any sgnificant reduction in taxes or privatization of services to for-profit businesses outside of your tax levy. (This makes these services not tax-deductible.) Consolidation creates a leaner, stronger and more efficient local government structure that makes a sustainable future possible.
Gina has made herself one of the foremost experts in the municipal consolidation movement that began 40 years ago. She has read every consolidation report created since the first consolidation commission of 1972. In addition she has met with various ex-governors and think-tank leaders about this issue. She has come to the conclusion that the same failed model has been used each time a consolidation question was on the ballot. Gina brings a unique solution to the problem of high municipal costs from having identified an existing, functional and affordable model in the state. That model exists in the Township of Woodbridge, which has ten distinctly identifiable communities, each with their own names and flavor. As mayor, Gina was also highly involved in the first successful communication merger in the state. Although the combined communication center was highly successful, the cost savings would have been greater if the merger was for a greater number of towns.
What research was done for you to reach these conclusions? The various consolidation commissions have found some cost savings in shared services but these areas have been nearly maximized. The tax savings from combining two communities, like Sussex (pop. 2,000) and Wantage (pop. 10,000) was not sufficient to make the transition worthwhile. This most current failed attempt at consolidation, has led to the conclusion that a larger scale consolidation is necessary to generate the cost savings that will make New Jersey affordable. The effort in Sussex and Wantage also illustrated the lack of understanding that the loss of identity for a community is a significant issue for the residents to overcome. More education is needed and communities should each keep their names.
New Jersey is verging on bankruptcy. Municipal staffs have been reduced to bare bones to adapt to the reduced state funding and mandated budget caps. Additional cuts to local state aid will tighten revenue streams. Municipalities will need to further reduce services, cut staff and hours of operation. They are resorting to borrowing to finance operating costs but the bond ratings of municipalities have been lowered creating increased costs for borrowing funds. The redundancy of municipal structures is costly and inefficient. The pension costs alone are growing exponentially. The results are a 700 percent property tax increase over the past 30 years. When will we be proactive about addressing the state and local distress? This model looks toward the future of New Jersey to create stronger, less redundant municipalities.
The long-term goal of Courage to Connect NJ is to reduce the number of municipalities in New Jersey, while retaining the individuality of every community. New Jersey needs a structure made up of 100-150 municipalities that can efficiently and effectively interact with the state government. It gives each municipality a stronger voice in Trenton and access to more funding.
Actually, there will be more opportunity and funds available to continue municipal services that are now being reduced or eliminated due to the current state budget and economic conditions.
Yes. But the successful consolidation of Princeton Borough and Princeton Township has shown the entire state that consolidation can happen. The intensive public education campaign in those communities showed the residents the significant benefits of consolidation.
Absolutely not. State mandates do not educate the public and will not produce a positive vote on a consolidation referendum. The state has already created the legislation that will allow towns to consolidate. Any further state action should provide education rather than coercion and punishment for communities that do not have a full understanding of the issue. This restructuring of the state can only work with the knowledge and support of the majority of the voters.
Woodbridge Township is the model of a successful municipality, with one government structure presiding over 10 distinct communities. Woodbridge Township did not follow the trend in the late 1700s to create separate municipalities for each community. If it had, it would look like every other area of the state consisting of five or six separate municipalities. Woodbridge is able to keep its taxes lower than other surrounding communities while providing superior services to its residents.
No. The Woodbridge model shows how each community still retains its own name and identity although there is one government. Another example is Short Hills, with a distinct residential and business community but it is governed through Millburn. Take a look at the video, “Can New Jersey Connect?” and Brian Donohue’s Ledger Live video on our home page.
The cost of running a municipality will be spread out across a larger tax base and services will be delivered more efficiently through economies of scale. Larger municipalities have better leverage in contract negotiations and purchasing. They will have the ability to eliminate many contracted services and bring them in house for reduced cost. The sale of unneeded properties will result in lower operating costs, shifting properties to the tax base and generating funds for debt reduction or capital expenditures.
The consolidation of Princeton Township and Princeton Borough will save the residents over $3Million per year. In addition, services that had been cut to meet previous budgets will be reinstated.
A Star-Ledger report a few years ago found that Woodbridge had a population and geographic area roughly the same as Cranford, Garwood, Mountainside, Springfield, Summit and Westfield combined. Yet Woodbridge provided police, fire and all the other services of municipal government for roughly $20 million less than the total spent by the six Union County municipalities. Woodbridge also has the ability to pick up their own garbage and generate revenue by collecting garbage for other municipalities. You do the math.
Mayors and Councils don’t cost any real money, yet you want to get rid of these hard-working public servants. Where are the real savings?
The real savings come from the elimination of redundant positions that are required for each town. This includes township administrators, clerks, tax assessors, CFOs, inspectors, attorneys, DPW management, etc. For example, one administrator can just as easily service a community of 4,000 or 40,000 but the cost is covered by 10 times the number of households. Mayors and councils/committees would come from a larger pool of qualified people. Dual office holding would be impossible to justify. Mayors for all communities would be elected rather than appointed by their committee providing better representation and accountability to the public. The new model also gives Mayors and councils/committees more leverage with the state and contract negotiations.
With the consolidation of the Princetons, there are 565 incorporated communities in NJ. In addition there are 144 CDPs and 184 unincorporated communities that are identifiable by name and zip code.
A Census-Designated Place (CDP) is an unincorporated community identified by the United States Census Bureau for statistical purposes. CDPs are populated areas that retain their own name and identity. CDPs are within an incorporated municipality which serves as their municipal government. There are currently 144 CDPs in New Jersey. Example: Lincroft is a CDP affiliated with the incorporated Middletown Township in Monmouth County
An unincorporated community is an area that does not have its own municipal government. Such areas are within the political and administrative jurisdiction of a city, borough, township, town or village. There are currently 184 unincorporated communities in New Jersey. Examples: Basking Ridge is within the incorporated Township of Bernards, Short Hills is within the incorporated Township of Millburn. (Interesting facts: Bernards Township does not have its own zip code. Short Hills’ population is greater than Millburn’s.)
A municipality is an administrative entity of local government composed of a clearly defined area and its population. It is commonly known as a city, borough, township, town or village. A municipality is incorporated to be self-governing under the laws of New Jersey. A municipality is typically governed by a mayor and a council, committee, commission or board of trustees. There are currently 566 municipalities in New Jersey.
Home Rule is a political structure where each municipality is organized with a separate administration and government. The causes of home rule are rooted in history. During the 19th century religious, ethnic, economic and social differences caused towns to form separate governments. This has resulted in up to 567 independent municipalities in NJ.