Photo by: John O'Boyle/The Star-Ledger
When New Jersey was first admitted to the Union in 1787, it had 104 municipalities, far fewer than the 566 towns currently in existence. Gina Genovese, a former mayor of Long Hill Township and advocate of consolidating municipal governments, said that efforts to control local issues such as water management, alcohol prohibition and rural identity led to the spike in municipalities, a trend that eventually subsided with the economic constraints of the Great Depression. But in 1970, Gov. William Cahill started the first state commission to look into consolidating municipalities, beginning a debate that has continued to this day, she said.
But for change to take hold, it can’t start with legislation from Trenton, said Assembly Deputy Speaker John F. McKeon (D-Essex); it must begin with changing the mindset of residents.
“New Jerseyans value the system we’ve grown up under very much,” McKeon said. “Either we recognize that property taxes on some level are going to continue to grow, or we greatly diminish the services that we’ve all become used to.”