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Consolidation in Action: Princeton, NJ

For a long time, there was Princeton, NJ the borough and Princeton, NJ the township – not anymore. In 2011, residents voted to consolidate the neighboring municipalities and their merger took effect on January 1, 2013.

To coordinate the process, the new municipality created a task force. The Transition Task Force is comprised of twelve members: Five voting members each from the Borough and Township, and one alternate each. The Task Force also includes both the Borough and Township administrators. The Task Force is being assisted by the State Department of Community Affairs and other outside experts. This consolidation represents the joining of a relatively developed and economically stable borough, and a much more rural township. Despite their cultural differences, the merge was seen as having huge potential in cost-saving for both municipalities.

The two municipalities are in the process of overcoming budgeting differences, as they had previously allocated funds through different channels and were not able to merely combine their revenues and cut out the redundant departments. In order to make sure that the service and fiscal planning would aptly serve the new municipality, subcommittees were formed from the Transition Task Force and included Facilities, Finance, Infrastructure, Personnel and Public Safety. The state of New Jersey was also helpful in the transitional phases, offering 20 percent of cost reimbursement and funding an upgrade in the police information system. Special consideration went into ensuring that consolidation would not yield a decline in the services provided by either municipality. These services consist of trash collection, financial reporting, police staffing and relocating public facilities, among others.

In Pennsylvania, it’s been difficult to undertake such huge projects, but Renew Lehigh Valley has been advocating for consolidation since its inception and there has been some success. Right here in the Lehigh Valley, we have seen consolidation of police departments with the Colonial Regional Police Department that provides law enforcement services to Bath Borough, Hanover Township, and Lower Nazareth Township all in Northampton County.

Courage to Connect in New Jersey is holding a public meeting on June 5 to examine the case of Princeton, below is their information on the event:

This has been a remarkable year in NJ with the implementation of the Princeton Consolidation.
You are invited to:
Be Inspired by the success of Princeton Township and Princeton Borough becoming ONE town.
Learn from elected officials from around the state about their experience with school, police, fire and municipal consolidation.
Connect with innovative leaders in NJ, making a difference!
When: Wednesday June 5, 2013 from 8:00 AM to 12:30PM
Where: Princeton University
Robertson Hall, Dodds Auditorium
Prospect Ave at Washington Rd
Princeton, NJ

Seminar Schedule
8:00 – 8:45 a.m. Registration and Continental Breakfast
8:45 a.m. Welcome and Introduction
Gina Genovese, Executive Director, Courage to Connect NJ
8:50 – 10:00 a.m. Princeton: A Road Map to Follow
Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert
Princeton Councilwoman Heather Howard
Princeton Administrator Robert W. Bruschi
CGR President and CEO Joseph Stefko
10:00 – 10:15 a.m. A Path to Success
Former Princeton Township Mayor Chad Goerner
10:30 – 11:30 a.m. Elected Officials Discuss their Experiences with Consolidation
Senator Bob Gordon – NJ District 38
Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli – NJ District 16
Freeholder Rob Walton – Hunterdon County
Mayor Paul Fernicola – Loch Arbour
11:30am – 12:30pm Benefits of Police and Fire Consolidation
President and CEO of Public Safety Solutions, Les Adams
Princeton Police Captain Nicholas Sutter
Princeton Police Lieutenant Christopher Morgan

#MuniCon in Berks

Dan Fink of York Counts tweeted this great story about the Berks County, PA experience in municipal consolidation. Apparently, the county’s planning office provides $25,000 to municipalities to help pay for merger studies. Here’s an excerpt from the story:

“We came up with this concept of developing a municipal merger program and paying for the study to help the municipal governments decide whether it was worthwhile or not,” said [Kenneth] Pick [Berks County community development director].

Three tiny boroughs have taken the county up on its offer.

They did the studies and merged with townships after their voters and the voters in the receiving townships approved.

  • Temple became part of Muhlenberg Township in 1999.
  • Wyomissing Hills became part of Wyomissing in 2002.
  • West Lawn became part of Spring Township in 2006.

Richard A. Gould, former mayor of West Lawn, was a huge advocate for municipal merging, running on a pro-merger platform and effectively eliminating his own position after he won.

Before the merger, Gould said, small-town politics weren’t working for West Lawn and its residents. Property taxes were 77 percent higher than Spring’s, even though West Lawn was completely surrounded by the township and already using many of its services, including police protection.

Yes — someone actually ran on a platform that was completely selfless, purely for the good of the municipality and its residents.

The Twitterverse has been abuzz today with the news of the unanimous passage of Senate Bill 1429, which would streamline voluntary municipal consolidation with a home rule option. Now the bill moves from the Senate to the House. Read more about this latest news on Team Pennsylvania’s website.

To follow the Twitter chatter on this topic, search for the hashtag #MuniCon and make sure you follow @YorkCountsDan, @LVIndependent, @mattzieger, and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, @renewlv.