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How Much Does Small Cost?

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Curious about how much extra it actually costs taxpayers to live in smaller communities, Courage to Connect NJ wanted to look at budget and tax levy figures for towns of various sizes in New Jersey.

Summit Collaborative Advisors, a small consulting firm specializing in NJ local government, did this analysis. It looks only at municipal budgets and taxes, not including school systems.Summit Collaborative Advisors used Woodbridge as a benchmark for the cost of serving 100,000 residents. Woodbridge had a 2009 budget of roughly $110 million, levying municipal taxes of $60 million.

Looking first at a group of nine towns in a northern county, Summit Collaborative Advisors found that both the total population and the population density were virtually identical to Woodbridge’s. The per-capita income among the nine towns was also very close to Woodbridge’s. So this group of towns matched well with the benchmark. However, the nine towns together had 2009 budgets of more than $158 million and levied taxes totaling $105 million.

It cost the 100,000 residents of those towns a total of $48 million more to provide services than it costs Woodbridge, and they are paying $45 million more in taxes.  (See the chart of services provided by Woodbridge Township on page 32.  Very few of these services are provided in smaller towns although their taxes are higher.)

To see how the comparison would work with towns of a different character from Woodbridge’s, Summit Collaborative Advisors examined a group of six towns in another north-Jersey county. These towns have a slightly lower total population than Woodbridge, and that population lives in a larger area. Per-capita income is twice as high as in Woodbridge. The 2009 municipal budgets in the six towns total $153 million, with tax levies of $98 million.

It cost these residents $43 million more than Woodbridge’s residents for municipal services. They paid taxes that were $38 million more than the benchmark. Interestingly, the per-capita cost of services and taxes in thesewealthier communities were both lower than in the nine towns with lower income levels.

In the case of the nine-town sample, living in small communities effectively costs each resident an extra $1.25 a day. In the six-town sample, the cost is $1 a day. Individual families may not find this a compelling reason to become part of a larger community. However, taking potential cost savings of $40 million or more into account, the case for broad-based consolidation becomes more compelling. This is especially true as local governing bodies begin to face the realities of a 2% tax cap and how it will affect their ability to deliver services.

How Much - Chart



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; video is below slideshow)

Princeton Township Mayor Chad Goerner featured on NJTV:

Executive Director of CtoCNJ Discusses Consolidation on NJTV:

(click image to watch on

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: