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NJ Town Mergers Come With Sticker Shock [AUDIO]

Flickr User Dougtone

It isn’t always just the issue of ‘home rule’ that stops towns from consolidating.

While experts agree property taxes could go down if two neighboring towns merge in areas where it makes sense, they rarely talk about the costs associated with municipal consolidations. A bill in Trenton seeks to remove a financial roadblock.

Under legislation co-sponsored by State Senator “Kip” Bateman, Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and Assemblywoman Donna Simon, merging municipalities would be allowed to use special emergency financing to spread out expenses associated with the consolidation.

“It’s a one-time cost, but over five years,” explains Simon. “What that’ll do is it kind of removes the upfront sticker shock that might make officials wary of mergers…….It’s not a mandate at all. It will encourage them to look toward mergers where in the past they would be skeptical of entering into something so costly.”

Mergers can be costly. Simon explains that some consolidation expenses could include moving offices, combing records, new uniforms or repainting police cars.

“While consolidation often makes long term sense, there are short term financial obstacles that must be overcome,” says Bateman.

Bateman, Ciatterrelli and Simon, all Republicans, represent the 16th Legislative District which covers Princeton Township and Borough. Those two towns are currently planning their voter-approved merger.

Simon says, “When we have two towns willing to join together to lower property taxes, we have to be certain that our laws work to help them reduce costs. Consolidation will lower property taxes and this bill will remove a barrier to consolidation.”

The measure has bi-partisan support. This Monday, the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee will consider the Upper House’s version of the bill which is sponsored Senator Bob Gordon, a Democrat.

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