Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 26
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
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Commission Signs Consolidation Report

Ellen Gilbert

Members of the Joint Consolidation/Shared Services Study Commission put their names to a final version of their report recommending consolidation of the Borough and Township. A full text of the document is available at www.cgr.org/princeton.

At a joint meeting at 7 p.m. on July 25 in Township Hall, the governing boards of both municipalities will consider the recommendation to consolidate. If they approve, the question will be put to Princeton voters on Election Day this coming November.

“I think it’s very well done, but essentially it is a marketing tool to promote the idea of consolidation, to try to convince people that consolidation is a good thing,” said Commission member David Goldfarb of the report. “I think it goes beyond where I feel comfortable; the general tone is in favor of consolidation. I don’t think that the work of the Commission should be compromised by a foreword with reasons that are less than objective. If you start off saying that consolidation is a wonderful thing, that will color the way that people look at the report.” Mr. Goldfarb suggested that the report shouldn’t be “selling anything” except the group’s “hard work.”

“I get frustrated when we are held hostage by one member of the Commission,” said Township Mayor Chad Goerner at the meeting, which was chaired by Commission member Valerie Haynes in Anton Lahnston’s absence. “It’s like a filibuster.”

“I don’t understand why we wouldn’t want to market our conclusion,” offered Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman. “We were given a charge to study the different materials and determine whether consolidation was in the municipalities’ best interests,” she added. Mr. Goerner and Commission member Bernie Miller concurred, noting that the most recent iteration of the report incorporated or responded to several of Mr. Goldfarb’s past objections. These included allaying the concerns of some residents that they would not “be heard” as a result of being part of a larger municipality, and the creation of an advisory planning board, consisting of representatives from both the Borough and Township, to ensure representation for everyone.

Additional fine-tuning of the report included suggesting that in order to ensure uninterrupted service, phasing out police jobs could take as long as three years. Phrasing describing the two municipalities‘ high bond ratings and the significance of them to taxpayers was also refined for more clarity. It was noted that having a larger tax base will be a plus, and that an effort will be made to equalize the historically disparate tax rates in the Township and the Borough. Members thought that a triple-A bond rating for the newly created municipality is likely.

Mr. Goerner noted that the recommended 2013 reassessment will be conducted locally, and is not the same as a revaluation.

The question of whether every Commission member should put their names to the document was overwhelmingly endorsed over the alternative of having just Mr. Lahnston sign “I’m amazed at how much we got done,” conceded Mr. Goldfarb, adding however, that the “debate in the community that will follow is going to be different.”

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