A potential merger of two South Jersey communities is on hold. There’s no money to study the proposed consolidation of Cherry Hill and Merchantville and that means the question will not be on the ballot in November.
Gina Genovese, executive director of the non-profit group Courage to Connect New Jersey, says she’s disappointed. “They were pretty much the first citizens group in New Jersey to petition and form a consolidation study commission,” said Genovese.Genovese said the Garden State beats all others on this issue, “New Jersey has the most municipalities per square mile than any other state in the country. We have 566. But now we’re going to have 565 as of January 1, 2013 because we have the Princeton Township and Princeton Borough merger. You have pretty much 566 municipalities providing most of the same services and I don’t know whether that’s sustainable in the 21st Century.” The state of New Jersey used to offer grants to pay for consolidation studies, but the money has run out. Neither Cherry Hill nor Merchantville is offering to pay the $50,000 a study would cost.Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Cahn said he’d like to see a study done and it’s unfortunate there’s no funding.
“I think the commission had hoped that the state would fund or the department of community affairs would fund at least part of the study,” said Cahn. “My feeling it it’s up to the commission to raise the funds. I don’t think it’s up to the Cherry Hill taxpayers nor the Merchantville taxpayers want to fund the cost of the study.”
Cahn said for now, he is focused on working to identify how to save money by sharing town services.