Courage to Connect New Jersey is calling 2014 the “tipping point” for local government and school district consolidation in the state.
“If you look at what was accomplished in 2013 – with so many roadblocks to consolidation removed – New Jersey is primed for a sweeping statewide consolidation in the next few years,” said Gina Genovese, executive director of Courage to Connect New Jersey, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that helps citizens and local government through the state-mandated consolidation process. “We anticipate some incredible momentum in 2014. It’s the tipping point.”
Genovese said 2013 began with the successful consolidation of Princeton and Princeton Township, ultimately saving taxpayers in the combined municipality $3 million a year.
It was also the year for the first citizen-driven campaign to form a Municipal Consolidation Commission. Under the 2007 law, citizens in Scotch Plains and Fanwood petitioned to form the study commission, culminating with five members of each community seated on the volunteer board in 2013.
The year also brought the end to four school districts, as South Hunterdon voters overwhelmingly approved the creation of a regional school district serving West Amwell, Stockton and Lambertville.
“We think that 2014 is the year where it all comes together,” Genovese said. “There is such a drive now in towns throughout the state to explore the benefits of consolidation. We now receive a steady stream of phone calls from citizens and government leaders who want to explore how they can save money by connecting with neighboring communities.”
Residents of Roxbury and Mount Arlington in Morris County have submitted petitions to start a study commission exploring the benefits of consolidating both their municipalities and school districts.
Loch Arbour and Allenhurst in Monmouth County are working towards placing a question on a ballot this year asking voter support for the merger of the towns.
At the State House in Trenton, lawmakers will be working on legislative fixes to the 2007 municipal consolidation law, simplifying the process and giving more towns the option to have successful consolidations.
Courage To Connect New Jersey is continuing the education and momentum by hosting a fourth-annual statewide seminar on May 2 at the Robert Meyner Conference Center at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel. Participants will learn from the school board members who worked many years to get school regionalization on the ballot in South Hunterdon. An announcement of panelists will be made in the upcoming weeks.
“Now is the time to get involved in this growing movement to save taxpayer dollars and create sustainability statewide,” Genovese said. Learn more at www.CourageToConnectNJ.org