Step 3: Obtain Local Approval for Study Commission
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Once the application has been completed, you need to obtain “local approval” from each participating town. There are three ways to do this: by(1) municipal resolutions, (2) voter petitions 20 (3) any combination of the two. Once you have obtained local approval, you will need to host three public hearings.
The first option involves municipal resolutions. If local elected officials support your consolidation proposal, this is usually the easier route. The governing body of each municipality will need to pass a short resolution endorsing the application to create a Study Commission. A sample resolution has been included in The Guidebook Templates.
As a resident, you can present the resolution to your local governing body during the public portion of any meeting. It may be helpful to bring a group of supporters that are interested in a consolidation study (even if your resolution is not addressed at that meeting). This shows your local government that there is political support for municipal reform. CTC-NJ will work with you on the next steps.
If local officials oppose consolidation and are unwilling to pass a resolution, you can seek approval directly from the voters. The petitioning process is relatively straightforward. Copies of all the relevant documents are available in The Guidebook Templates.
Before circulating the petition, you will need to identify three sets of supporters:
- Committee of Petitioners
These five individuals will serve as the contact people during the petition process and ensure that the circulators comply with the law. Their names will appear on the top of each page of the petition.
These individuals will collect signatures for the petition. After completing a page of signatures, a circulator must sign the document in the presence of a notary public, who also must sign and the document.
- Notary Public
The notary will certify the signature of the circulators on each page of petitions. (Note: The notary does NOT need to be present when voters’ signatures are collected, just when circulators signs the document.) The notary does not need to be a state or municipal official.
Once the petition is ready, you can begin collecting signatures. Remember, the only valid signatures are those from registered voters who reside in your town. All others will be rejected.
The total number of signatures required varies by town. You are required to collect a number equal to ten percent of the people in your town who voted in the last General Assembly election. (General Assembly elections occur in odd-numbered years, so as of today, the most recent election occurred in November 2009.) To determine this number, follow these steps:
- Visit: http://www.state.nj.us/state/elections/2009_general_election.htmln
- Under the header “Official General Election Results by Municipality,” click on the name of your county. A .pdf document will pop up.
- The relevant number is in the fifth column from the right (“Number of Ballots Cast”). You need ten percent of this number.
In addition, if you are seeking approval by petitions, you will need to include a “Justifi cation of Standing” with the application. This is a short document explaining how your organization is “representative of the community.” Additional details can be found in The Guidebook Templates.
Mix-and-Match (petitions and Resolutions)
As of April 28, 2011, towns can seek local approval by “mixing-and-matching” petitions and resolutions. In other words, some of the towns participating in the application can obtain approval by voter petition while others obtain approval by municipal resolution.
Regardless of whether you obtain approval by resolutions, petitions or some combination of the two, the Local Option municipal Consolidation law requires that you host at least three public hearings: one in each participating municipality, as well as a “joint hearing” in a location convenient to residents of all the participating towns. These meetings will take place after your group has obtained local approval but before you submit your application to the Local Finance Board for fi nal approval (Step 4).
You will need to coordinate exact meeting times and locations with the DCA. CTC-NJ can help you publicize the event.
RELEVANT DOCUMENTS FOR STEP 3
You can find the relevant documents for Step 3:
- In The Guidebook Templates at Chapter 3
- Online at www.couragetoconnectnj.org/templates
The documents you use will depend on which option you pursue.
If Option #1:
- Draft Council Resolution Supporting Creation of municipal Consolidation Study Commission
- Press Release Announcing Resolution
- Op-Ed Encouraging Governing Body to Approve Resolution
If Option #2:
- Petition Supporting Creation of municipal Consolidation Study Commission
- Press Release Announcing Petition Drive
- Op-Ed Encouraging Voters to Sign Petition
CTC-NJ Members: Download documents here.