As we move toward the end of 2012, municipalities across New York and New Jersey are dealing with the aftermath of a devastating hurricane and significant budgetary pressures. Many are struggling to determine how to deliver better services at the same or lower cost as tax revenues remain stagnant.
Couple this with a 2-percent budget cap and our municipal governments have their own localized version of the “fiscal cliff.” New York and New Jersey each have their own issues with municipal government inefficiency. New Jersey has 566 municipalities and more than 590 school districts. New York has more than 10,521 taxing districts resulting in a lasagna-like layer of multiple tax bills and resultant inefficiency.
What’s the solution to this morass of home rule? Both states have taken action in making it more feasible for residents and/or elected officials to consolidate towns and school districts. Before he became Governor, Andrew Cuomo passed the N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act to allow citizens to effectively consolidate or dissolve local governments. In New Jersey, the state Legislature passed the “Local Option Municipal Consolidation Act” in 2007 making consolidation more feasible for many New Jersey municipalities.
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Many said that it couldn’t be done. But one year ago, something historic happened: Princeton Borough and Princeton Township residents voted for the first large municipal consolidation in New Jersey in more than 100 years.
While moving from 566 to 565 municipalities in New Jersey on Jan. 1, 2013, may not sound like a big deal, the savings and promise that consolidation holds for Princeton and, ultimately, for New Jersey, is worth celebrating.
We have set a path to savings that exceed our consolidation commission’s estimate for 2013 and beyond. In addition, we have uncovered areas of savings that we did not focus on during the study process — from our operating budgets, employee benefits and cost avoidance through more efficient use of joint real estate.
Consolidation may not be the solution for all municipalities, but it is certainly worth considering for some. It has the potential to create a more sustainable budget that can survive under the state’s 2 percent municipal budget cap without drastically reducing a surplus or cutting valuable services. The savings projected for Princeton for 2013 are at least 40 percent greater than the original estimate ($2.26 million vs. $1.61 million) made by the Joint Shared Services and Consolidation Commission (JSSCC), the body that studied the consolidation.
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The latest projections show that consolidation savings for 2013 are at least 40 percent greater than what was initially projected by the Joint Shared Services and Consolidation Commission in 2010- at least $2.26 million v. $1.61 million.
There’s also an additional $350,000-$400,000 in savings for next year, achieved by combining old contracts, health benefit plans and signing new contracts, according to Scott Sillars, a member of the Transition Task Force’s Finance Subcommittee
The finance subcommittee has both calculated high and low consolidation savings projects from 2013-2016, the period of time it will take Princeton to fully consolidate.
Consolidation savings for 2014 were estimated at $3.1 million. Updated projections show that amount could fluctuate from $2.6 million to $3.6 million.
Consolidation savings for 2015 were estimated at $3.6 million. Updated projections show that amount could fluctuate from $2.6 million to $4 million.
Why the additional savings?
Basically, it’s because the transition task force charged with implementing consolidation came up with slightly different recommendations than the Commission.
Due to attrition, there are only 54 sworn police officers in the Borough and Township, whereas the Consolidation Commission had recommended reducing to 60 officers beginning in 2013. Princeton already is down six officers from that recommendation.
This article originally appeared in the Princeton Patch. To read the full article, click here.
The forum was the first held on the issue, and one that meeting organizers emphasized was just to begin the discussion. Under New Jersey law, merging of municipalities is a six-step process that begins with a petition agreeing to form a study commission and ends, if the commission recommends it, with a voter referendum.
The featured speaker at Wednesday’s forum was Gina Genovese, executive director of Courage to Connect New Jersey. Genovese, the former mayor of Long Hill Township, has long been an advocate of consolidation in New Jersey as a way to help municipalities save money, particularly in the past two years that New Jersey’s towns have been operating under the state’s two percent tax cap.
Genovese was invited to speak by former Roxbury school board candidates Ralph Nappi, Virginia Mushinski and Chris Rogers, who withdrew their names from contention in the November race to focus on consolidation.
This article originally appeared in The Daily Record. Continue reading this article here
The possibility of merging Mount Arlington and Roxbury would save a substantial amount of tax dollars and streamline services, officials say, and a public forum this week will begin exploring that possibility.
Gina Genovese, executive director of Courage to Connect New Jersey, will be the featured speaker at the forum, set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Roxbury Public Library, to discuss proposed efforts to consolidate public schools and municipal government in Roxbury and neighboring Mount Arlington.
Genovese has been invited to present by former Roxbury school board candidates Ralph Nappi, Virginia Mushinski and Chris Rogers, who withdrew their names from the November election in order tofocus on consolidation.
Scheduled speakers will also include two members of Courage to Reconnect, a grass-roots group in Scotch Plains and Fanwood that was the first to successfully petition the state for a municipal consolidation study. The state Local Finance Board approved their application earlier this month.
Read the entire article here.
Earlier this week, the John Girgenti Civic League will be hosted Gina Genovese of “Courage to Connect New Jersey,” an organization founded in 2009 whose main purpose is to educate elected officials and the citizenry alike on the benefits and process of consolidation, as well as the impact of home rule. It also works with communities to help accomplish a consolidation effort. The organization submits that a model such as Woodbridge to help advance their effort.
After the event concluded, we had the chance to speak with the the former Mayor and Committeewoman of Long Hill Township this evening.
We touched on a variety of topics including the genesis of Courage to Connect New Jersey, the process of some other towns looking to consolidate such as Fanwood and Scotch Plains, and similar efforts in Bergen County where there are (amazingly!) 70 separate municipalities.
This article originally appeared in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Patch. Read the full article here
The Local Finance Board in Trenton approved the application to study the consolidation of Scotch Plains and Fanwood on Wednesday afternoon.
Gina Genovese, Executive Director of Courage to Re-Connect, said this is a great day for taxpayers in New Jersey.
Members of the Finance Board, Mayor Mahr and attorney were present at the meeting.
To move forward, citizens will appoint two commisioners, one from each town.
Additionally each town’s council will choose a commissioner for the board. Then each four person group from each town will choose a fifth person for their group.
In total, their will be 10 commisioners from both towns. The study will be completed over the next three years.
The movement for this study has been completely driven by citizens. Genovese hopes this will save tax dollars for citizens and improve services.
Read more about the consolidation, in the Patch article, “Local Finance Board Hears Consolidation Study Commission Application“
Check scotchplains.patch.com for more updates on this story.
This article originally appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer. To read the full article, click here
A sensible proposal to merge Cherry Hill with little Merchantville is going the way of most such proposals: nowhere.
Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Cahn told The Inquirer’s Kevin Riordan last week that no one could see the advantage of consolidation “from a Cherry Hill perspective” – which is a huge part of the problem.
The two towns’ officials are so tragically attached to their particular perspectives that they couldn’t even agree on how to pay for a consolidation study.
Cahn’s counterpart, Merchantville Mayor Frank North, said “shared services are the thing to do” – a frequent refrain of municipal officials warding off consolidation attempts.
As it happens, though, the very same towns, along with the rest of Camden County, are currently implicated in a dramatic plan to share services in the form of a countywide police force. And they have greeted it with every bit of the recalcitrance they bring to any discussion of consolidation.
In fact, the proposed regional police force now looks less like a plan to share services than an effort to reconstruct the Camden city police from the ground up, with no other municipalities participating. The suburbs no doubt have legitimate concerns. But the trouble is that resistance is their knee-jerk position, as well as that of virtually every New Jersey municipality confronted with the prospect of consolidation or service-sharing.
This resistance persists even as the unaffordable extravagance of the state’s teeming local governments, school districts, and other entities becomes more painfully clear. And it persists even as the inequalities among minutely drawn municipalities become more glaring and impossible to fix – of which Camden’s intractable concentration of crime and poverty is the most urgent consequence.
It ultimately comes down to that old Cherry Hill perspective. Most mayors and other local officials simply won’t act against their own interest in preserving maximum power. Until New Jersey changes the nature of their interests – by further restricting taxing authority and subsidies for excessive local government, for example – their provincial perspectives will prevail.
Both sides of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood consolidation debate testified in front of the Local Finance Board last Wednesday.
The hearing, held at the Department of Community Affairs building in Trenton, lasted about an hour and saw a comprehensive discussion about the proposed Municipal Consolidation Study Commission.
According to the Local Option Municipal Consolidation Law of 2007, three public hearings were mandated before Courage to Re-connect, the organization in favor of consolidating Scotch Plains and Fanwood, could move forward with a consolidation study. These took place in mid-June and early-July and elicited an impassioned reaction from residents.
Prior to the public hearing, Courage to Re-connect had to get 10 percent of voters in Scotch Plains and Fanwood who voted in the last general election to sign the petition, as well as a committee of five petitioners from each municipality to sign the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Municipal Consolidation Application, which was presented to the Local Finance Board Wednesday.
During Wednesday’s hearing, the board heard testimony from Executive Director of N.J. Courage to Connect Gina Genovese, Courage to Re-connect Founder Fred Lange, and Don Parisi, a member of the coalition.
Genovese testified that if approved by the Local Finance Board, this would be the first time that citizens from two communities in New Jersey would use the Municipal Consolidation Law of 2007 as part of an effort to pursue municipal consolidation.
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