After months of debate, the big day has arrived for Princeton voters, who will decide for the fourth time in the last 58 years whether the two Princetons should merge.
Township and borough voters will choose members for their governing bodies, and borough voters will also choose a new mayor. For the first time in several years a Republican is challenging a Democrat in the general election, as Republican Jill Jachera faces off against Democrat Yina Moore. Current Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman decided not to seek reelection after more than 25 years in politics.
The polls are open until 8 p.m. tonight. Not sure of your polling place? Visit the state’s online polling place search page.
If new voter registrations and absentee ballot requests in the two Princetons are any indication, the turn out will be strong at the polls today. According to the Mercer County Board of Elections, more than 800 residents of the borough and township have been added to the voting rolls between June and November, with the largest number of new voter registrations coming from the voting district that includes Princeton University students.
According to Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami-Covello, more than 1,000 voters have requested absentee ballots, but that does not mean they will all be turned in. A breakdown of absentee ballot request by district was not available yesterday.
For more than a year, the joint Princeton Consolidation and Shared Services Study Commission has been studying the potential merger. In the spring, the commission voted 9-1 to recommend that the two municipalities merge, and in July Princeton Borough and Township officials voted to put the measure on today’s ballot.
The consolidation commission estimated that the merger would save about $3.2 million a year after the first three years. It also estimated that the transition costs would be about $1.7 million.
Opponents of consolidation have questioned the accuracy of the annual savings and argue the savings are much lower. They also claim, after filing a public records request of e-mail exchanges between officials about transition costs, that the transition cost estimates were pulled together quickly and that they were artificially reduced to make them more palatable to the state and the public. Technology costs for the transition were reduced from more than $2 million to $255,000. Officials argued many of the items in the initial estimate were already accounted for in municipal budgets or that some of the costs could be deferred.
The police union for the township has also voiced opposition to consolidation, claiming it will reduce police services while still costing more. Officials have countered that there would be less sergeants and more officers on the streets.
Supporters of a merger argue a consolidated Princeton would be more efficient. The estimated tax savings per year after three years is $201 for the owner of a home with an average assessed value in the borough, and $240 in the township for the owner of a home assessed at the township average.
Check back for updates on election results tonight.