ROXBURY, NJ – Using a grant from an organization led by a New Jersey gubernatorial candidate, the panel studying the pros and cons of consolidating Roxbury and Mount Arlington services has hired a consultant to “help determine the extent of property tax savings if the two towns unify."
The $7,500 grant from Courage to Connect NJ will be presented to the Roxbury- Mount Arlington Consolidation Study Commission at the commission’s Sept. 13 meeting, said commission chairman Craig Heard in a statement.
The executive director of Courage to Connect NJ is former Long Hill Township Mayor Gina Genovese who is running for governor as an independent. Courage to Connect NJ is a non-profit organization “that supports and educated citizens and local governments seeking ways to reduce property taxes through regionalization of services and municipal consolidation,” according to Genovese.
The Roxbury- Mount Arlington Consolidation Study Commission hired consulting group Municipal Finance Management Consultants LLC of Bordentown to analyze the data gathered by the commission relating to consolidation, Heard said. He said the company is composed of three people with masters of public administration degrees: Jackeline Egan, Anthony Jones and Robyn Kirkland.
"We are so pleased to have Municipal Finance Management Consultants working with us," Heard commented. "We reviewed many proposals for this study and no other consulting group put together a team with this educational level and diverse array of experience."
The study commission was formed two years ago. It will eventually decide whether a referendum on consolidation will be presented to voters of the two municipalities.
In a statement, Genovese called the commission’s work “a groundbreaking initiative in New Jersey,” but she took a shot at the current state administration. “The commission’s efforts … have been stymied because of the lack of state funding to support the consolidation study activities,” said Genovese. “Even though the state has lent lip-service encouragement to the principle of consolidation, New Jersey has failed to lend pocket-book support.”
Heard, a Succasunna resident who unsuccessfully ran for Congress last year, agreed.
“While property taxes are the highest in the nation in New Jersey, little is done by our political leaders to lower taxes and honor the state statute they passed to encourage municipal consolidation studies and help fund the efforts,” he said. “Passing legislation and not supporting it fiscally is only a ‘photo opportunity’ for our politicians that offers no real commitment to the legislation that could result in reducing property taxes.”
As noted by Heard, the Roxbury-Mount Arlington consolidation effort “has its roots” in a 2010 Roxbury-based organization called TEAM ( standing for Taxpayer Education Association Member).
TEAM launched the consolidation process “after meeting Gina and learning about her Courage to Connect NJ mission and seeing her knowledge and commitment to consolidation studies,” said Heard. “The commission of 16 members formed in 2015, and the body is two years into the consolidation study, thanks to the leadership of Gina and the volunteer efforts or our 16-member board of commissioners. Despite little support from the state, we continue the study during the third year of analysis. We hope to complete our study in 2018.”
The Courage to Connect NJ presentation to the commission is scheduled to take place 7 p.m., Sept. 13 at the Roxbury Recreation Office, 73 Eyland Avenue in Succasunna.