Governor Chris Christie today backed the effort to consolidate Princeton Borough and Princeton Township, announcing proposed legislation and state grants to help encourage municipal consolidation efforts.
Christie expressed his support for a ballot question going before Princeton voters to move forward with a consolidation of the two municipalities and announced new initiatives to support such local consolidation efforts.
“The residents of Princeton Township and Princeton Borough have an opportunity to streamline their local governments and achieve significant savings now and into the future,” said Christie. “My view has always been that sensible, locally-driven consolidation must be supported by state government, and that is exactly what we are doing by proposing common sense changes to how municipalities absorb the one-time costs of mergers and incentivizing voter-approved consolidations with grants to assist with those expenses. I believe these efforts to consolidate in Princeton can be an example for other municipalities seeking savings and efficiencies under the 2 percent property tax cap.”
To facilitate the merger in Princeton and municipal consolidation efforts in the future, Christie is proposing legislation to allow municipalities engaging in consolidation to spread one-time costs associated with consolidation over a five year period. Spreading these costs over five years will allow consolidating municipalities to rapidly begin experiencing the financial savings of those mergers by mitigating the one-time, upfront costs associated with consolidation, he said.
Current law provides for a category of certain municipal costs to be spread over a five year period. The proposed legislation would include one-time costs of municipal consolidation among those qualified expenses.
Christie also announced that the Division of Local Government Services, within the Department of Community Affairs, will provide consolidating municipalities with a grant to cover 20 percent of the cost of consolidation implementation, representing the entire first year expense of the five-year period proposed under the legislation. By the second year, following voter approval of consolidation, savings from a merger would far exceed the remaining spread out nonrecurring integration costs, he argued.
The one-time estimated cost of consolidation for Princeton Township and Princeton Borough, as estimated by the joint municipal commission, was $1.7 million, with the merger anticipated to yield an estimated $3.16 million in annual savings upon full implementation.
The Division of Local Government Services will review proposed transition expenses and provide a grant to cover 20 percent of approved transition costs, representing the first-year amount under the new legislation, allowing residents in both municipalities to share in the identified savings as soon as possible and without any impact on property taxes in the interim period while those savings are being achieved.
“I welcome the Governor’s support on what should be a common, bipartisan goal for our state,” said Township Mayor Chad Goerner. “Consolidation offers an opportunity for our collective communities to streamline governance, improve accountability, generate tax savings, unify our resources and improve budget flexibility. While the transition costs are a one-time expense and we have identified significant savings from consolidation, the grant will help us achieve these savings faster to benefit all residents of our community. Princeton has an opportunity to become a model for the state on locally-driven municipal consolidation.”
Boruough Mayor Midred Trotman said while she has never before supported consolidation in her 49 years in Princeton, she believes strongly that full consolidation is in the best interest of Princeton Borough residents.
“I am pleased that some financial relief to help offset the cost of transition is being made available to our taxpayers,” Trotman said.