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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

Step 2: Prepare Application to Create Study Commission

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The next step involves preparing an application to create a Municipal Consolidation Study Commission. The application must be approved by the participating towns (see Step 3) and by the state (see Step 4). Once created, the Study Commission will examine the proposed merger and issue a recommendation regarding consolidation.

It’s a fairly straightforward application. You will be asked to include contact information, a summary of the proposed consolidation, and basic information about how you wish to structure the Study Commission. CTC-NJ has prepared a “tip sheet” that goes through the application question-by-question and provides advice. The  tip sheet for application can be found in Chapter 2 of The Guidebook Templates.

The application requires you to make several strategic decisions about the consolidation process. We strongly encourage you to speak with CTC-NJ as you complete the application, as your decisions can have far-reaching implications on the success of your consolidation campaign. (In addition, you will need to schedule a meeting with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. CTC-NJ can help you with this, as discussed below.)

The most important decisions you must make in the application are:

  • How will your group obtain local approval for the creation of the Study Commission? As explained in Step 3, there are three ways for the participating towns to authorize the creation of the Study Commission: voter petitions, municipal resolutions or any combination of the two. (If you decide to seek authorization by voter petitions, you will need to append to your application a short document, called a “Justification of Standing,” that describes your local advocacy group. A sample can be found in The Guidebook Templates.)
  • How will members of the Study Commission be selected? You have several options. You could give the mayor or governing body of each town the authority to choose members, or you could specify the members in the application itself. Either way, it is important to have a diverse range of Commission members, including some members with experience in government.
  • What is the timeframe for the Study Commission’s work? See the timeline on page 11 of this guidebook. Your schedule will depend in part on whether you want the Study Commission to prepare two documents (in addition to its final report and recommendation): (1) a “preliminary report” and (2) a “consolidation implementation plan.” CTC-NJ can guide you in making the decision whether to require the Study Commission to issue those documents.
  • If the Study Commission recommends consolidation, how will the towns approve the proposal? As explained in Step 6, there are three ways to do this: by voter referenda, municipal resolutions, or both. It is not necessary that each town approves the proposed consolidation using the same method.Once the application is finished, CTC-NJ recommends posting it on your group’s website and social media pages so that others can review it.Contact with State Officials During the consolidation process, you will have extensive contact with two entities within the Department of Community Affairs (“DCA”):
  • Division of Local Government Services (“DLGS”) The Division offers advice and support to towns considering a municipal consolidation, and its staff will perform a preliminary review of your application before you seek local and state approval (See Steps 3 and 4).
  • Local Finance Board The Board is the state agency that must formally approve your application (See Step 4). The Chairman of the Board is also the Director of DLGS, and the two entities work closely together.You are welcome to contact these agencies on your own, although CTC-NJ is more than happy to help set up initial meetings. In our experience with the DCA, we have found the staff to be extremely knowledgeable about the merger process and quite eager to assist those considering consolidation.
  • Contact with Local Elected Officials. As you prepare your application, you will also have to decide how to engage the elected offi cials in your town. This can be a sensitive issue. On one hand, many local offi cials recognize the severity of the state’s fi scal crisis and the need to streamline municipal government. On the other hand, some offi cials feel a strong emotional connection to their community and may be reluctant to relinquish their town positions if consolidation occurs.

CTC-NJ encourages you to develop a good working relationship with your local offi cials. In some cases, they will support your effort to consolidate, and may be willing to help you pass a resolution authorizing a Study Commission application. (See Step 3, Option #1.) But remember, even if local offi cials oppose consolidation, the law allows you to seek approval for a Study Commission by voter petition—with or without support from local politicians. (See Step 3, Option #2.)


You can find the relevant documents for Step 2:

  • In The Guidebook Templates at Chapter 2
  • Online at

The relevant documents for Step 2 are:

  1. Sample Application to Create municipal Consolidation Study Commission
  2. Tip Sheet for Application

CTC-NJ Members:  Download documents here.

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