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"The pressure for consolidation begins when residents begin to recognize a problem with the current municipal structure, either because of rising taxes, lowering quality of services, or growing environmental problems."

Home Rule

Courage to Connect NJ Featured on Baristanet

As budget hearings continue in Trenton through the early spring, there is another important meeting that is also taking place. In my opinion, this meeting is more critical for the long-term fiscal strength of our state than anything taking place in the Statehouse.

 

It is a statewide municipal consolidation workshop scheduled for the morning of March 28 in East Brunswick, near the geographic center of New Jersey. The event, coordinated by non-partisan, non-profit Courage to Connect New Jersey, brings together people from throughout the state who are involved in local consolidation movements.

 

One panel will focus on what is taking place in Merchantville and Cherry Hill, which have already formed a municipal consolidation commission between the two towns and is moving quickly through the state-mandated process. Another panel will focus on the Princetons, where residents and local leaders of both towns will explain how they built consensus for their future. There will also be talk of what is happening in Scotch Plains and Fanwood, in which citizens of both towns are the first in the state to take advantage of a 2007 municipal consolidation law, in which they petitioned the state for a study without the approval of local, elected leaders.

 

Through consolidation, we will no longer spend our budget seasons focusing on where to cut and what services will be diminished, while taxes continue to climb. Through consolidation, we can begin the discussion of how we can take the best attributes from adjoining towns and create the type of affordable communities that our children will one day be proud to live in.

 

This article originally appeared on Baristanet. To continue reading, click here 

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Princeton Township Mayor: Municipal consolidation will pay off

For the Princetons, 2012 is the year we transition to a single municipal government, with the promise of a brighter and more sustainable future.

 

Our success in consolidating has set off a series of similar efforts across the state. To that end, a dynamic and energetic organization called Courage to Connect New Jersey has gathered significant momentum and is holding a conference on municipal consolidation March 28 in East Brunswick. The statewide event will build on the success that we’ve had in Princeton Borough and Princeton Township.

 

In a time when municipalities across the state are struggling to maintain the same level of service, we, in Princeton Township, have struggled to do the same while trying to keep municipal taxes low. As a result, we ended up reducing 18 percent of our staff over the past five years.

 

With the new 2 percent state-mandated municipal cap, many towns are facing a choice: reduce staff and cut services, or spend down their municipal surplus (i.e., savings). This is the situation that towns across the state face today. Consolidation will put our towns on a more sustainable path and allow us to bring back services that had been cut to balance the budget.

 

At the same time, it will save our taxpayers a significant amount of money. Princeton Borough and Princeton Township have identified $3.2 million in annual savings at the full implementation of our consolidation plan. These savings are from personnel reductions only. (One personnel reduction is my own, because I worked myself out of a job, too.)

 

Personnel savings of $3.2 million is significant, for it represents about 6 percent of our combined municipal budgets. However, there’s an opportunity to save even more by combining operating budgets and eliminating duplicative contracted services (municipal audits, software licensing fees, office equipment, etc.).

 

This op-ed originally appeared in The Star-Ledger. To continue reading, click here or download the full PDF here

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Courage to Connect NJ Featured in the Paramus Patch

Communities, like the people who live in them, suffered from the recent economic crisis, dealing with budget cuts, layoffs, and reduced services.

 

“This may be the worst of times,” said Rhoda Schermer of the North Jersey Public Policy Network, sponsor of “Creating Thriving Communities in Challenging Times,” a special presentation Thursday at Bergen Community College where a panel of experts proposed solutions to help towns recover and thrive.

 

Residents of various Bergen County communities as well as Sen. Bob Gordon, Freeholder Maura DiNicola, and public officials from Park Ridge and Little Ferry turned out to hear the proposals, which urged citizens and local governments to work cooperatively on projects that could save money and improve quality of life through better land use, more efficient transportation patterns, environmentally sound practices, and streamlined municipal administrations.

 

“We have to restructure New Jersey,” said Gina Genovese, founder and director of Courage to Connect NJ, an organization that helps communities consolidate and share costly services such as fire, police, and sanitation departments. “The state cannot sustain its 566 municipalities.”

 

Genovese was the mayor of Long Hill Township where a small population struggled to finance municipal services. She praised the 2011 consolidation of Princeton Boro and Princeton Township into a single municipality, a move expected to save Princeton $3.2 million a year.

 

This article originally appeared in the Paramus Patch. Continue reading the full article here 

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SPF Residents Take Historic Step Towards Consolidation of Neighboring Towns

Scotch Plains and Fanwood residents in favor of merging the two towns made history on February 15, becoming the first neighboring communities in the state to petition the Local Finance Board to commission a study on what consolidation would mean for the SPF tax payers.

 

Over the past year, this community has seen an escalation in discussions regarding shared services, including a possible police merger. Fanwood Mayor, Colleen Mahr, who has dedicated much of her time as Mayor to revitalizing downtown Fanwood, has remained adamant in her opposition to full consolidation. However, Scotch Plains Mayor, Nancy Malool of has openly voiced her support for pursuing a municipal consolidation study, under the Local Option Municipal Consolidation Act, passed in 2007.

 

Courage to Re-connect is the local grassroots organization that created the petition to commission the consolidation to study. The organization was founded by Scotch Plains resident, Fred Lange. Courage to Re-connect receives support from Courage to Connect New Jersey, a non-profit, non-partisan organization committed to assisting municipalities to study consolidation where appropriate.

 

Frustrated with rising taxes, Lange formed the organization in 2010. Backed by a firm belief that consolidation was the answer to rising costs, Lange mobilized members of his community to support a municipal study.

 

In order to commission the study, Lange had to get 10 percent of voters in Scotch Plains and Fanwood who voted in the last general election to sign the petition. Lange exceeded that requirement, collecting over 1000 signatures.

 

“Initially, I went door to door to have our petitions signed,” Lange said. “Ninety-two percent of the people in Fanwood and 98 percent of the people in Scotch Plains with whom I spoke supported what I was doing. This is really a citizen-driven initiative. We’re the ones who want to study a consolidation by an overwhelming majority.”

 

This article originally appeared in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Patch. Continue reading the full article here.  

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Courage to Connect NJ Featured in The Star-Ledger

Residents in Scotch Plains and Fanwood took a first step toward merging their towns Wednesday by applying for permission to create a consolidation commission.

 

The two municipalities already share a school district, a library and have talked about merging police departments.

 

If the state Local Finance Board approves the citizen-driven application — the first of its kind — the towns will begin holding meetings in April. The commission would apply for grants to fund the study, according to the application.

 

Scotch Plains resident Fred Lange has spearheaded the effort. He formed a group, Courage to Re-Connect, about a year ago and has collected some 1,000 signatures to file the application, he said.

 

“I found that over 90 percent of the people in Fanwood and Scotch Plains are in favor of having a study to merge,” he said. “Overwhelming response.”
Lange’s group has a commission of five residents from each municipality. Their efforts, he hopes, will interest other taxpayers interested in cutting municipal costs.

 

Scotch Plains, with 23,510 residents, has a much larger population than Fanwood, with 7,316, according to the 2010 Census.

 

The citizen-driven model is possible because of the Local Option Municipal Consolidation Act of 2007, which outlines steps for residents to consolidate towns without local government participation.

 

Gina Genovese, whose group Courage to Connect New Jersey helps such efforts, said this is the first time citizens of two communities have asked for a study with no involvement from elected officials.

 

This article originally appeared in The Star-Ledger. Continue reading this article here.

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Citizen group wants to study merging Scotch Plains, Fanwood

Scotch Plains and Fanwood may share a school district but the two communities have been separate municipalities since 1895, when tiny Fanwood broke away.

 

Now a group of citizens is hoping to reunite the neighboring towns.

 

The grassroots Courage to Re-Connect on Wednesday submitted an application to the state Local Finance Board to create a municipal consolidation commission that would study a merger.

 

The residents filed their application, which included more than 1,000 signatures, under the Local Option Municipal Consolidation Act of 2007.

 

Organizers said the application was the first time citizens from two communities, without the backing of the local governments, have asked for a study commission.

 

“It made a lot of sense to merge, particularly because we already have a merged school system,” said organizer Fred Lange, a Scotch Plains resident since 1974. “Also it made a lot of sense getting rid of the redundancy and be more efficient.”

 

The commission must be approved by the Local Finance Board, which next meets in March.

 

After a commission presents its findings and recommendations, including what to name a the merged town, voters in both towns would have to approve the merger.

 

Last year voters Princeton Borough and Princeton Township approved a merger after decades of debate.

 

“The citizens are saying let’s look into this we are basically one town anyway,” said Gina Genovese of Courage to Connect N.J., which assisted Lange. “This takes courage because it never happened before. They had no support from the local government.”

 

This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com. Continue reading here.

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Gina Genovese Discusses Consolidation on NJTV

Courage to Connect NJ Executive Director Gina Genovese was recently featured on NJTV to discuss consolidation.

Watch Executive Director of Courage to Connect NJ Discusses Consolidation on PBS. See more from WNJT.

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Courage to Connect New Jersey again advocates for municipal consolidation in Pohatcong Township

Courage to Connect New Jersey started its presentation last week at Pohatcong Township Elementary School by citing an 1895 New York Times article discussing the municipal consolidation of the Oranges.

 
“The Oranges must be made one city so that all our public departments may be better and more economically managed,” Courage to Connect New Jersey Executive Director Gina Genovese said, quoting a city physician from the article. “It is only selfishness that keeps us apart.”

 
“We have to find out if in 2012 if it is only selfishness that keeps us apart,” Genovese told the audience of roughly 20 people, including local officials, residents and emergency squad members. Courage to Connect New Jersey is a nonpartisan, nonprofit group that goes around the state educating the public about municipal consolidation. The three-year-old organization delivered a similar presentation at the end of October in Pohatcong Township.

 
Genovese did most of the talking at the lecture last week as co-founder Wendy McCahill took on the tedious task of showing the audience 566 placards representing New Jersey’s municipalities from the highest to lowest in population.

 
McCahill then stacked a majority of the placards against a wall, leaving a handful on the table because the pile had reached the ceiling.
“The thing that’s ironic about these 566 towns is that they do 80 percent of the same thing,” she said. “Is there a better way to administer the business of these 566 towns?”

 

Click here to continue reading this article in The Express-Times. To download a full PDF, click here.

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10 reflections on 2011, hopes for new year from Morris notables

Courage to Connect NJ Founder and Executive Director Gina Genovese was recently featured in The Daily Record article, “10 reflections on 2011, hopes for new year from Morris notables.


Gina Genovese, Founder and executive director, Courage to Connect NJ

 

One word to describe 2011: Groundbreaking

 

Wish or hope for 2012: In 2012, New Jersey will have the courage to lead the way to a sustainable and stronger municipal structure.

 

In the new year municipal consolidation will be acknowledged as the most common sense way to end redundancy in local government.

 

Courage to Connect NJ will be working on numerous consolidation efforts initiated by both citizens and elected officials statewide. What was learned through the efforts of citizens and elected officials in 2011 in communities such as the Princetons, Cherry Hill and Merchantville, and Scotch Plains and Fanwood will be passed to the next generation of consolidators.

 

Courage to Connect NJ will be the one-stop resource for those seeking to improve local services and reduce the cost of local government.

 

Ultimately, the consolidation movement, started in New Jersey, will sweep across the entire country.

 

Click here to continue reading the full article.

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N.J. organization wants a Scotch Plains-Fanwood merger

SCOTCH PLAINS — A group of Scotch Plains and Fanwood residents are taking it upon themselves to merge their two towns. The municipal governments have long flirted with the idea of consolidation but residents say they’re tired of waiting.

 

“This would solve everything,” said Fred Lange, a 37-year Scotch Plains resident leading the effort. “It would lower taxes, make departments and services more efficient and it just makes sense.”

 

Scotch Plains and Fanwood already share a school district and most recently started talks about combining police forces and construction.

 

Lange’s group, Courage to Connect New Jersey, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to consolidating services in many of New Jersey’s 566 towns. The group operates across the state but sprouted local roots in Scotch Plains and Fanwood in March.

 

Council members and the mayors in both towns say they’re committed to cutting property taxes but feelings about a total merger are mixed.

 

“I think you have to walk before you run,” said Scotch Plains Councilman Kevin Glover. “Walking might have been merging the schools, next you merge police and public works but it should be an evolutionary move, rather than a revolutionary one.”

 

In 2009, the towns spent $50,000 to study merging services such as the police department, public works and the municipal courts, Glover said. But there has been no study that looks at combining the towns on the whole, he said.

 

This article originally appeared in The Star-Ledger. Click here to continue reading

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News & Videos


Visit CTCNJ on YouTube


Chad Goerner interview on NJTV:




Gina shares insights on NJTV:




Princeton's new Mayor Liz Lempert addresses the community:

Mayor Liz Lempert Video (click image to watch on nj.com; video is below slideshow)


Princeton Township Mayor Chad Goerner featured on NJTV:




Executive Director of CtoCNJ Discusses Consolidation on NJTV:

NJToday
(click image to watch on PBS.org)


WMBC Introduces CtoCNJ:




WMBC Continues the Conversation:




CtoCNJ on NJN:




Gina on NJN:




Fox News 29 in Cinnaminson:




CNBC in Woodbridge:




Gina's "Can NJ Connect?" video:




Abbott and Costello take a humorous look at what we don’t know about our own communities: