Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 1
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Wednesday, January 6, 2010
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Committee Reports That Consolidation Is Top Priority for Coming Year

Ellen Gilbert

Most of the speakers at Township Committee’s January 3 reorganization meeting cited discussions regarding shared services and potential consolidation with the Borough as the top priority for 2010.

“2009 began with strained relations between Borough Council and Township Committee,” observed Bernie Miller, who was reelected mayor at the Sunday meeting. “There was much talk about unpaid bills and an absence of dialogue on open issues. Both governing bodies and staffs have put a lot of effort into this area in 2009, and I’m pleased to say that the financial issues between the two municipalities have been resolved to our mutual satisfaction and that controls have been put in place to make certain that this situation does not occur again. As 2010 unfolds we plan to move forward with the formation of a study commission and a study of additional shared services and municipal consolidation.”

Harkening back to last year’s comment about “working himself out of a job,” Mr. Miller said that he would like to be remembered as “the last Mayor of Princeton Township.”

After agreeing that consolidation was “at the top of the list” among concerns for the coming year, Committee member Sue Nemeth announced in her remarks that, in an effort “to seek property tax fairness for all taxpayers,” a resolution asking “Princeton University to voluntarily share more fully in the financial burden of providing municipal services and a quality public education” would be introduced at the Township Committee meeting on January 11.

“We appreciate the generosity of the local tax exempt institutions who voluntarily contribute toward the financial health of our community,” observed Ms. Nemeth, adding, however, that “one institution stands out because of the sheer mass of its property and the cost of tending to the enormous volume of its visitors. The latest figures from the tax assessor put the total the University would pay if fully taxed at $42 million a year.”

After his installation as Deputy Mayor, Chad Goerner called for a “move away from an ‘us vs. them’ mentality in Borough/Township relations,” and for beefing up the role of the Citizens Financial Advisory Committee. Mr. Goerner suggested a need for more long-term strategic planning that would anticipate the impact of current decisions on municipal debt in “five, ten, and 15 years.” Mr. Goerner also said that he anticipated the appointment of a new New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner by Governor-elect Chris Christie, and that he looked forward to working with that person in efforts to minimize truck traffic on Route 206. 

Mr. Goerner and Elizabeth Lempert, who were reelected to three-year terms in last fall’s election, were both sworn in during the Sunday meeting. Rabbi Julie Roth, Executive Director of the Princeton University Center for Jewish Life, gave the invocation, referring to “Princeton’s special sense of place and community.”

Committeeman Lance Liverman nominated Mr. Miller for his reelection as mayor, saying that while “2009 was a very trying year for everyone,” Mr. Miller had “created an atmosphere of collaboration and productivity.”

In nominating him for reelection as Deputy Mayor, Mr. Miller described Mr. Goerner as “my colleague, my friend, and an exceptionally hard worker who has led the way in financial matters” and has been a “hard-driving” force for consolidation.

After authorizing departmental assignments and professional services agreements, Committee members and their families headed for the firehouse across from Township Hall, where the Princeton Community Democratic Organization sponsored a luncheon for the Committee and Borough Council, which had also held its reorganization meeting at noon that day.

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