Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 4
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
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Consolidation Commission to Air Latest Findings

Dilshanie Perera

The joint municipal Consolidation and Shared Services Commission will present its latest findings to the public in a community presentation scheduled for Wednesday, January 26 at 7:30 p.m. in the John Witherspoon Middle School Auditorium.

Representatives from the Center for Governmental Research (CGR), the project consultants, will go over the highlights from their recently issued “Municipal Services and Financial Overview for the Borough and Township of Princeton” report. Also referred to as the “baseline report,” the document details budgets and data pertaining to every department in both municipalities, including those that are jointly shared.

The goal of the report is to give the commission information in order to analyze costs and revenues associated with services provided by the two municipalities; the debt and other obligations currently held; the level of service being provided in each individual and shared service; existing staff levels in all departments; and the properties, facilities, vehicles, and equipment owned and maintained by the governing entities.

The report also compares union agreements, employee benefits, and the respective municipal codes of the Borough and Township.

With the current status of the two municipalities detailed, the next step of the Commission and consultants will be to analyze the data as a whole as well as within the commission’s subcommittees, which focus on finances, full municipal consolidation, public works, the police department, and community engagement.

At a public meeting last week, CGR consultant Joseph Stefko explained that the “baseline report brings a lot more objective information to the conversation. We’re in a position to respond in a more informed way.”

With the requisite data gathered, an analysis of the kinds of municipal combinations and shared services is now possible. “We will be examining options,” Mr. Stefko acknowledged, referring to municipal services; forms of government; and assets, liabilities, and debts. “As we look at this, we will look at the structural impact. What is the fiscal impact? The budgetary impact? And how does that translate to the individual taxpayer?”

“We will turn that [information] into a menu of options so we can have in informed dialogue and create an informed plan,” Mr. Stefko added.

The anticipated timeline for the commission’s activity includes identifying options and conducting a preliminary impact analysis in February and March, discussing what is most “feasible, appropriate, and implementable” in April, and selecting from among the various alternatives for recommendation to both governing bodies and the public in May. The recommendation will come to Council and Committee for a vote in either June or July, and if the decision is to consolidate, the question will be presented to the public as a referendum on the ballot in November of this year.

Township Mayor Chad Goerner, who is part of the commission, suggested that “because of the tools we have now,” the current report will likely be more detailed than the one assembled in 1996 when consolidation came up for a vote.

A full list of meetings of the commission and its subcommittees, as well as the baseline report, can be found at cgr.org/princeton. All meetings are open to the public.

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