Merging N.J. towns could move beyond glacierlike pace with government support

Avalon, Cape May County, New Jersey in 2015. (Alan Tu/WHYY)

Avalon, Cape May County, New Jersey in 2015. (Alan Tu/WHYY)

A push to consolidate some smaller towns and boroughs in New Jersey could be gaining traction, but it’s been years since the rare event of a merger.

One proposal calls for forcing towns with fewer than 5,000 residents to merge with a neighboring one. Gina Genovese, executive director of Courage to Connect NJ, said it makes economic sense.

“In New Jersey, we have 565 separate administrative structures performing 80 percent of the same services or more,” she said. “The redundancy is why our taxes are higher than most in the nation.”

Genovese ran for governor last year as an independent, largely on this issue.

Princeton Township and Borough merged in 2013, and four school districts merged a year after that. Without a state mandate and financial support, Genovese said, further mergers will be difficult to achieve.

While lawmakers are discussing the issue, “they need to do more than talk,” she said. “They need to get involved with Roxbury and Mount Arlington, where taxpayers have spent five years of their life to get a study that shows significant savings [from consolidation]. New Jersey has to make some bold moves.”

Just a bit of help from the state would make the process go more smoothly, Genovese said.

“We had a successful consolidation in the Princetons in 2013. We also had South Hunterdon Regional, which was a very successful school regionalization in 2014, when four school districts became one,” she said. “So we are on the road to success … we just need to make sure there is state support, which there really hasn’t been.”

State officials aren’t rushing to join the call for consolidation, but a study group is reviewing the issue, which could spur legislation mandating communities of fewer than 5,000 residents to join neighboring towns.

Towns small enough to qualify are all over South Jersey.  Here is a small selection:

  • Audubon Park, Camden County
  • Avalon, Cape May County
  • Beverly City, Burlington County
  • Brooklawn, Camden County
  • Delanco Township, Burlington County
  • Elmer Borough, Salem County
  • Hi-Nella Borough, Camden County
  • Lower Alloways Creek Township, Salem County

You can find a full list in this story from NJ.com

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