Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 19
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
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Looking Ahead to Public Meeting Wednesday, Commission Considers Consolidation Options

Dilshanie Perera

Implementing the recommendations of the Options Report of the Consolidation and Shared Services Study Commission could yield a total of $3.321 million in savings annually for the consolidated Borough and Township. The report, authored by Project Director Joe Stefko of the Center for Governmental Analysis, was made available to the public last week, ahead of Wednesday’s public meeting.

The phased combination of the two police departments would yield a savings of $2.1 million, and the consolidated Public Works and Engineering departments, along with the Sewer Operating Committee would create $442,000 in savings. Other streamlining measures, like having one governing body, one administrator and clerk, a centralized tax collection agency and municipal courts, would yield the remainder of the savings per year.

In the options report, the commission’s recommendations appear alongside other methods of consolidating departments between the Borough and the Township.

The Borough form of government has been recommended for the consolidated municipality. It features the direct election of the mayor and a six-member Council, with the mayor voting only to break ties. Veto power rests with the mayor though vetos can be overridden by a two-thirds vote from Council. No initiative or referendum is possible within this form of government. An annual savings of $61,466 would be achieved if this recommendation were to be implemented.

With respect to municipal debt, the finance subcommittee and the full commission have suggested combining that of the Borough and the Township. With the relative debt burden totaling nearly $26.3 million for the Borough and $51.8 million for the Township, the percentage of equalized value for the debt is 1.01. If the debt is combined under the consolidated municipality, the percentage of equalized value would remain the same. Regarding the total debt service over the next five years, the current trends would cost approximately $4,875 to the average property in the Borough and $4,961 in the Township, with the combined debt yielding a cost of $4,822 and $4,988 in the Borough and Township, respectively.

Since only one administrator, clerk, deputy clerk, chief financial officer, and engineer would be retained under the suggested model, a recurring annual savings of nearly $800,000 would be achieved. Municipal Court savings would total approximately $79,000 annually.

A phased plan for consolidating the police departments would occur over time, likely between 3 to 5 years, and result in a final tally of 51 officers, down from the initial 60. The department would be housed in the Township Municipal Building. In the event that full municipal consolidation is not approved, it is still recommended that the police departments combine as a shared service.

The public forum is scheduled for Wednesday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the Township Municipal Complex. For the full text of the options report, visit cgr.org/princeton/documents.aspx.

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