EAST BRUNSWICK — Citizens and elected officials from all over the state attended a forum Wednesday to discuss ways in which to make local government more efficient through municipal consolidation.
The event updated participants on the growing number of citizens around the state who are in the beginning stages of forming municipal consolidation committees, following the 2007 Municipal Consolidation Law. The discussion was led by Gina Genovese and Andrew Bruck, both of whom are leaders of Courage to Connect New Jersey, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that promotes municipal consolidation. A portion of the four-hour program focused on what is happening in Merchantville and Cherry Hill, where the towns are working to come together. A second panel focused on the consolidation of the Princetons, now underway. “Courage to Connect New Jersey is already in its third year, and has met with so many fabulous people from all over the state who want more efficient municipal government,” Genovese said. “Municipal consolidation is a unifying issue, with Republicans, Democrats and others coming together, willing to do what it takes to make New Jersey are more affordable place for us all to live.” During the event, Thomas Neff, director of the state Department of Community Affairs’ Division of Local Government Services, said the state agency had 120 staff members at one point, but now the work is being done by only 40 people. That is why, he said, it is so important for citizens to get involved in identifying cost savings at the local government level. “It is important to have groups like this willing to step up to the plate to help educate people about what they can do to bring local efficiencies to government,” said Neff, adding the state can serve as a resource with experts in local government administration. However, he said, the state does not have the funds at the moment to pay for municipal consolidation studies.