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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

N.J. towns should find courage to merge into 125 regional ‘town clusters’

This opinion-editorial by Courage to Connect NJ Executive Director Gina Genovese originally appeared in The Times of Trenton

For more than 100 years, residents and government officials have been talking about the need to end the redundancy in New Jersey by consolidating municipalities and school districts.

Over the decades, this well-documented problem is becoming dire. The current structure of 566 municipalities and 591 operating school districts defies all logic – from both a business and an economic perspective.

Yet, as we enter the second half of 2011 – with ever-increasing property taxes the paramount concern of residents throughout New Jersey – we still refuse to make the hard decisions.

But with many tax-weary residents fleeing the state and businesses hesitant to relocate here, we are digging New Jersey deeper and deeper into a hole. Together, we need to focus on how we are going to get out of it.

We need to think about what streamlined local government would look like. Instead of 566 separate municipalities, we could have about 125 efficient “town clusters.” Just imagine the millions of dollars in savings that would be realized when we have 440 fewer town halls in operation.

Think about what an efficient regional school district structure looks like. Instead of nearly 600 operating school districts – requiring $8 billion in annual state aid – there would be 125 districts that match the new municipal boundaries.


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