POHATCONG, N.J. – Residents of Pohatcong and surrounding communities are invited to an open forum on Wednesday, November 2 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss Governor Christie’s proposal to encourage municipal mergers and what it means for New Jersey.
The Governor’s proposal, released at the end of September, called for the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs to pay 20 percent of the cost of a merger between any two municipalities in New Jersey and to allow the cost to be spread out over five years. Over the long run, municipal consolidation will save taxpayers’ money; this proposal is designed to eliminate, or at least mitigate, the short term expense. “Sensible, locally-driven consolidation must be supported by state government, and that is exactly what we are doing,” Christie said in a statement accompanying the proposal. The forum is planned by Pohatcong Mayor James R. Kern III, who reached out to Gina Genovese, executive director of Courage to Connect New Jersey, a non-partisan, non-profit organization, to arrange the open forum. The goal of both the meeting and the organization is to help educate the community about the need for a more efficient municipal structure for New Jersey. The program will take place at the Pohatcong School, 240 Rt. 519. In addition to discussing the Governor’s proposal, Genovese will talk about the second edition of “Courage to Connect New Jersey Guidebook: The Tools for Municipal Consolidation,” a comprehensive manual that provides step-by step measures that residents and local officials can take to form municipal consolidation study commissions and, ultimately, consolidate communities. Genovese has presented similar programs at the request of residents of numerous municipalities across New Jersey. The program is free and open to the public; residents of Pohatcong and the surrounding communities are all encouraged to attend. “Public employee costs have been going up while there are numerous duplications of services between smaller neighboring towns with limited budgets,” Mayor Kern said. “If we were able to come together and it would directly deliver some taxpayer savings, it’s something we should at least be talking about.” When asked about the possibility that a consolidation between Pohatcong and a neighboring town could cost him his position, Mayor Kern said, “I didn’t run for Mayor for a job. I ran to do the right thing for taxpayers.”