Planet Princeton

Princetons to Decide on Merger, New Mayor Today

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.

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.

  • Peter

    Transition costs are one-time costs – and as far as accuracy the estimates from the commission are just that, estimates. But a one-time cost for recurring savings that are much larger makes sense. That’s why people are willing to pay closing costs to refinance their house at a lower mortgage rate.

    Let’s think of it that way – a one-time investment for the consolidation transition brings benefits every year in the future.

  • Sheila

    The $1.7 figure for transition costs is clearly not accurate. See the following link about Commission members giving false information about transition costs at a public meeting:
    http://princeton.patch.com/articles/how-accurate-is-the-information-in-the-consolidation-commission-s-report
    If the transition cost figure is intentionally false, can we depend on the other information in the Commission’s report to be accurate? If it is not accurate, then we would consolidate on false pretenses, and the promised savings and efficiencies will not materialize.

  • Kate

    The Commission failed ever homeowner by not fully disclosing the transition costs of the proposed merger. As part of the discussion regarding transition costs, members of Preserve Our Historic Borough repeatedly asked the Commission to identify the “deferred costs” they identified. To date – no response. So off we go to the polls today without an answer to a fundamental question – how will the speculative savings be affected by the understated transition costs? It would have been helpful to homeowners to know what other costs were intentionally lowered or deferred to fit the “State guidelines” the Chair identified. Without knowing the full extent of transition costs and deferred costs, the speculative ‘savings’ are meaningless. Members of the press were given ample information to ask the questions but failed to do so, and that’s unfortunate. It’s hard to understand why investigative reporters failed to probe the findings and simply chose to swallow the findings hook, line and sinker aiding in misleading the public on a question of such magnitude. It’s amazing that the Governor continues to ignore the very research the State sanctioned through the Local Unit, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission (LUARCC). Taxpayers shelled out nearly $100,000 to fund the LUARCC and then shelved the findings so that elected officials could ignore the warnings and instead continue to push consolidation as a panacea for property tax reform. Too bad the politicians refuse to do what would bring meaningful property tax reform to all New Jerseyans – take whatever actions are necessary to seriously tackle reforming the school tax. To all the undecided voters, with 4 and half hours before the polls close, please visit http://preserveprincetonborough.wordpress.com to learn why your friends and neighbors will vote against consolidation.

  • The Commission has recommended that the total combined police force be reduced from 60 to 51 (a 15% decrease) over a three-year period. As part of this overall reduction the patrol squads will be reduced from a current total (Boro plus Township) of 10 down to 8 (a 20% decrease).

    For Commission’s org charts for current Boro police force, current Township police force, and consolidated combined force from the Commission’s Baseline and Options report, see
    http://preserveprincetonborough.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/commission-recommends-patrol-squad-officer-reduction-of-20-overall-force-reduction-15/

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