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Letter to the Editor: Consolidation Benefits Borough Residents

Consolidation Benefits Princeton Borough Residents

To the editor:

Having exhaustively examined consolidation as Princeton Borough representatives on the Joint Consolidation and Shared Services Study Commission, we believe that merging the municipalities offers crucial benefits to Borough residents as outlined in the Commission’s report, including: cost savings, enhanced services, and more effective and accountable government.  These benefits help explain why five out of six Borough Council members, plus the Mayor, support consolidation.

A snapshot of Princeton Borough shows a town struggling to keep the tax rate steady and maintain service.  Over the past few years, the Borough has dipped into its capital surplus and raised parking rates to avoid tax increases.  Despite these efforts, Borough services continue to shrink.  Recent examples include police force reductions from 34 sworn officers to 30, and the cutting back of solid waste pick-up from twice to once a week.  Services have diminished in spite of the fact that we began receiving a substantial increase in annual contributions from the University several years ago.

The Commission has conservatively identified $3.16 million in annual savings on existing municipal services from consolidation. The Commission also proposed extending municipal residential garbage collection to the Township, at an estimated annual cost of $1.18 million. The combined reductions in property taxes and private spending on garbage collection will benefit residents of both municipalities.

Consolidating the Princetons offers opportunities for enhanced services: a merged and restructured police force will include a reconstituted traffic and safe neighborhood unit.  Reconfiguring public works, engineering, sewer operations, and recreation maintenance will make possible a more effective and efficient use, distribution, and management of staff to better serve the community – no more snow plows or street paving stopping half-way down streets divided by an arbitrary municipal boundary, and better flexibility to plan for a sorely needed upgrade of public works facilities.

Consolidation critics worry that Borough residents will lose their voice and representation in a merged municipality. The cornerstone of this anti-consolidation concern rests on the assumption that Township residents hold a single point of view, which is always different from and hostile to the interests of Borough residents  Yet, in fact, Borough and Township residents seamlessly integrate in community life – from civic and political groups, to religious and recreation organizations.  Moreover, the Borough and Township share thirteen joint agencies.  These activities call into question the assumption that Borough and Township residents have different values; and that Township residents lack the capacity to understand Borough concerns.

Nonetheless, contentious issues do arise in our community from time to time. With two governing bodies, this frequently leads to extensive and expensive standoffs which further polarize our community. We are very confident that such issues can be addressed more effectively within a consolidated Princeton.

Consolidation offers the opportunity for a more collaborative, effective, accountable government, in addition to cost savings and enhanced services.  We believe these goals can be reached, and the Commission’s study provides a blueprint for doing so.

Ryan Lilienthal, Alice K. Small, and Patrick Simon
Princeton Borough Members of the Consolidation Study Commission

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • “Many (not all, but many) Borough residents have a walk-to-everything lifestyle. Most (not all, but most) Township residents have a drive-to-everything lifestyle.”

    Another untruth POHB has been trying to sell residents: that the Borough has a lock on a walking lifestyle.

    1. All the elementary schools and the middle school are in the Township, and PHS is in the Borough but borders the Township on three sides.

    Most (not all, but most) Township students who live close by WALK to school. Most (not all, but most) of the Borough students who don’t are DRIVEN to school.

    And tons of both towns’ students then walk downtown after school to shop, lounge and use our library. So walkability is something students learn to value early.

    All the preserved open spaces and most of the parks are in the Township.

    Many (not all, but many) Township residents are able to WALK in those areas from their homes. Most (not all, but most) Borough residents must DRIVE to enjoy Greenway, Smoyer, Herrontown Woods, Mountain Reserve and Community Park.

    This is just more nonsense where POHB wants you to believe that we are different from one another.

    Mea culpa: though we walk or bike lots on weekends, except for a handful of times a year when we’re not running late, I drive my kids to CP from our house on Maple Street across the street from Alexi, who drives her child twice as far to PDS. Walking lifestyle indeed.

  • “Many (not all, but many) Borough residents have a walk-to-everything lifestyle. Most (not all, but most) Township residents have a drive-to-everything lifestyle.”

    Another untruth POHB has been trying to sell residents: that the Borough has a lock on a walking lifestyle.

    1. All the elementary schools and the middle school are in the Township, and PHS is in the Borough but borders the Township on three sides.

    Most (not all, but most) Township students who live close by walk to school. Most (not all, but most) of the Borough students who don’t are driven to school.

    And tons of both towns’ students then walk downtown after school to shop, lounge and use our library. So walkability is something all students learn to value early.

    2. All the preserved open space (in fact, most of the parks in general) is in the Township.

    Many (not all, but many) Township residents are able to walk in those areas from their homes. Most (not all, but most) Borough residents must drive to enjoy Greenway, Smoyer, Herrontown Woods, Mountain Reserve,

    This is just another fear tactic where POHB wants you to believe that we are different from one another.

    Mea culpa: while we like to bike and walk when we can, except for a handful of days when we have time to bike, we’re always running late so I drive my kids to CP from our house on Maple Street across from Alexi who drives her child twice as far to PDS.

  • Sheila

    Borough and Township residents do not necessarily differ in VALUES. Many of us have very similar values. What differs, for many Borough and Township residents, is LIFESTYLE. Many (not all, but many) Borough residents have a walk-to-everything lifestyle. Most (not all, but most) Township residents have a drive-to-everything lifestyle. A consolidated Princeton town council, with two Township voters for every one Borough voter, would almost certainly have a drive-to-everything viewpoint. If we had been consolidated during the controversy over the location of the library, our beautiful library and plaza would never have been built. The library would be in the Princeton Shopping Center. In fact, the Consolidation Commission has recommended moving municipal government out of Borough Hall, which is in the downtown, to the Township Municipal Complex, which is distant from the downtown. The Commission has also recommended moving the police from the downtown, out to the Township Municipal Complex. There is no indication that the Commission considered the advantages to residents and to the downtown of keeping government and police in the downtown. There is not even a plan for using the abandoned Borough Hall. These are the kinds of decisions we are likely to get from the new town council concerning other downtown institutions, if we consolidate.

  • Thanks guys! Love it! “The Commission has conservatively identified $3.16 million in annual savings on existing municipal services from consolidation. The Commission also proposed extending municipal residential garbage collection to the Township, at an estimated annual cost of $1.18 million.”

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