Vol. LXV, No. 41
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Mildred Trotman, Mayor, Princeton Borough
Chad Goerner, Mayor, Princeton Township
Mt. Lucas Rd.
Mayors Trotman and Goerner Explain Why Consolidation Is The Best Option
To the Editor:
On November 8 consolidation of Princeton Borough and Princeton Township will be on the ballot for your consideration. As the mayors of your respective towns, we feel consolidation is the best option for our collective community.
Both our towns bring something to the table, and both gain from consolidation. The Borough has new ratables coming online in Palmer Square and at the hospital site, and the Township expects new ratables from the senior housing development on Bunn Drive and other sites as well.
The Township has a significant ratable base and now generates more than twice the revenue of the Borough for each incremental change in the property tax rate. Combined, we will all gain from the greater budget flexibility under a consolidated municipality.
The commissions work has resulted in a final report that you can find at www.cgr.org/princeton. Here are some of the clear reasons why we ask you to support consolidation on November 8:
A Government Accountable to All Residents Because our towns are already so integrated, a decision on zoning or budgeting in one municipality can affect residents in the other. Yet, those affected residents cannot hold the governing body in the other municipality accountable. A single government will be accountable to all residents and demystify decision making.
Improved Services Consolidation allows for town-wide public trash collection, a community policing unit, an integrated affordable housing service, and more efficient public works and recreation services.
More Efficient and Proactive Administration We share some 13 services already and have reached the point where they are more cumbersome than effective. Decisions lag because of the extra layer of dual governance. Municipal staff is challenged with two masters. Under consolidation, we will maintain our boards and commissions while streamlining governance.
Clear Emergency Management – Consolidation would create a clear chain of command and unify our police and public works resources to respond more effectively and efficiently to an emergency. Our community and personnel would no longer be confused about police jurisdiction.
Tax Savings – The commission has identified $3.2 million in savings, and even with the extension of trash collection to the Township, property taxpayers in each community share in the savings under consolidation. In addition, we could optimize the use of our capital resources (municipal buildings and other properties), potentially providing residents with additional long term savings.
Budget Flexibility A tax point in the Borough is approximately $219,650. In the Township, a tax point is $461,780 because of its larger ratable base. Combined, the single municipality will have more budget flexibility to better withstand any changes in revenues or costs. This benefits everyone.
Optimal Negotiation With Tax Exempt Institutions A single negotiating body coupled with increased budget flexibility will allow us to negotiate with the University and other tax exempt institutions from a position of strength rather than a disjointed weakness.
Empowering Neighborhoods Preserving neighborhood character, valuing our history, and maintaining the vibrancy of the downtown was a consistently common finding of our neighborhood meetings and focus groups. It is something that, as mayors, we both value too and we feel that consolidation will help us best achieve these goals for our community in the long term. Advisory Planning Districts, which are allowed under consolidation, give us the ability to unite neighborhoods like the Witherspoon Jackson neighborhood that are currently divided by our borders and give the neighborhood standing in front of our planning and zoning boards on major development applications.
Sound Planning for the Future Financially, it is also clear that the savings and budgetary flexibility will allow us to become less reliant on parking revenue, realize taxpayer savings and slow future increases.
As mayors, when we step back and consider the status quo of remaining two separate municipalities, it is difficult to envision a scenario of similar savings and budgetary flexibility.
We recognize that this is not the first time that consolidation has been considered in our community, but this time we did some things differently. In contrast to 1996, we included elected officials on the study commission and we were aided by an independent consulting firm that analyzed our municipal operations to identify potential savings and efficiencies. We conducted our analysis under the Local Option Municipal Consolidation Act (2007) that, also unlike 1996, allows us to both maintain our ordinances and create advisory planning districts to unite our neighborhoods that are currently divided by arbitrary municipal borders.
We didnt arrive at this decision overnight and we know change is hard, but we also know, based on our experience and review of all the data, that consolidation will unify our community and make it an even better place to live. Please join with us in voting for consolidation on November 8.
Mildred Trotman, Mayor, Princeton Borough
Chad Goerner, Mayor, Princeton Township
Its Disturbing That The Consolidation Issue Has Created An Us and Them Atmosphere
To the Editor:
I am wholeheartedly in favor of consolidating the Borough and Township of Princeton. Having lived in both municipalities, I feel as protective of the vibrant downtown as I do about the preserved open spaces in the Township. One should not need a ticket to enjoy the pleasures of either. It is disturbing that an us and them atmosphere has arisen over this issue.
In addition to the Commissions report of significant cost savings after consolidaton, common sense dictates that to be the case. We currently have two municipal bodies, two administrators, two clerks, two affordable housing coordinators, two financial officers, two engineering departments, two zoning departments, two construction departments, two tax departments, two police departments, two superintendents of public works, two TV stations, two municipal courts, two law firms on retainer and a myriad of duplicated boards and/or commissions all for fewer than 28,000 residents. And there are two municipal buildings to maintain along with a host of duplicated vehicles and equipment. This is clearly a case of too much government at too great a cost. Consolidation does not mean massive layoffs. A thoughtful plan over a period of years could take advantage of retirement and/or resignation of employees.
California, the third largest state in the country, has 481 municipalities. New Jersey, the fourth smallest state, has 566 municipalities. This is home rule run amok and we can no longer afford it. Lets join forces and become a strong, united Princeton.
The Public Is Getting a Biased View Of the Consequences of Consolidation
To the Editor:
Having recommended consolidation, the Consolidation Commission is now engaged in a marketing blitz. The Commission doesnt like the word marketing yet they discussed the possibility of hiring a marketing expert to help them sell the recommendation. They have planned a large number of meetings to inform the public but the public will be informed with a biased view of what municipal merger will mean to the residents of the Princetons. There will be little or no discussion of the disadvantages of consolidation.
The case against consolidation in fact is very strong. With consolidation, Borough residents lose guaranteed representation on the Borough Council, the School Board, the Planning Board, the Recreation Board, and all advisory boards. In addition, Borough homeowners will lose 2/3 of the property tax benefit that they would otherwise receive from the Hulfish North development and from future building on the hospital site. Borough taxpayers will pay 1/3 of the cost of new curbs and new sidewalks and maintenance of an extensive Township road network (103 miles) and lets not forget the $1.7M plus estimated transition costs.
Moreover, the projected property tax savings is negligible $201 for the average Borough property owner and $240 for the average Township property owner even though property tax reform is the prime motivation behind Governor Christies push for municipal consolidation. With respect to the Secondary Impacts that depend on future State and County equalization ratios, much of those promised savings will disappear in short order as the State and County equalization ratios readjust every year.
Yina Moore Supporter Reminds Democrats That Party Identity Matters at the Local Level
To the Editor:
I am writing to enthusiastically endorse Yina Moore for Mayor of Princeton Borough.
I ask my Democratic neighbors who might be considering voting for a Republican mayor to ask themselves: What makes a candidate a Republican and what makes a candidate a Democrat? Party identity reflects a deep philosophical divide. It matters, even at the local level.
For example, Republicans give more importance to individual property rights in land use matters. One of the most important roles for the mayor and Council is in shaping the future of our community through zoning policy. Similarly, Republicans are less likely to value social programs like Human Services, Corner House, and Affordable Housing, agencies with very small budgets but which provide valuable services to residents who need them. In this way our government reflects our values as a community.
Yina has excellent credentials, with an AB from Princeton University and a Masters in real estate development from MIT. She is a longtime resident of Princeton Borough and has a record of commitment to the vitality of our downtown, our merchants, and our historic neighborhoods. Her deep roots in the community and her experience in government as a Planning Board member have well prepared her to hit the ground running as mayor.
By electing Yina we will not only affirm our identity as a progressive community that embraces Democratic values and ideals. We will also be choosing the best person for the job.
JFormer Township Mayor Endorses Recognized Leader Jill Jachera
To the Editor:
As Mayor of Princeton Township I proposed consolidation with the Borough of Princeton on New Years Day 1996. As we all know, that last effort was unsuccessful. In a few short weeks, the voters will once again consider the important issue of merger.
But this letter is not about the pros and cons of municipal consolidation. This letter addresses the importance of having the best possible leadership in place to address the considerable challenges that lie ahead, no matter what the outcome is on November 8.
Having a unique perspective on what potentially lies ahead, I am endorsing Jill Jacheras candidacy for the office of mayor of Princeton Borough. Jill is a recognized leader with a strong sense of community and purpose. Her contributions to Princeton have been numerous and significant.
I have known Jill for several years, having served with her on the YWCA Princeton Board of Directors. While Jill was president of the Board of the YWCA Princeton, in partnership with the YWCA Trenton, it launched Stand Against Racism, an event which has transitioned from a local event to a national event. The ongoing success of that event demonstrated Jills willingness to collaborate with other organizations to achieve a shared goal.
Jills leadership in the boardroom also led to the development of a five-year strategic plan for the YWCA, ensuring it would be a centerpiece in the community where children and families could grow and develop their fullest potential. During her 10-year tenure as a Board member, she worked alongside community organizers, business leaders, and the University, building support among various coalitions and fulfilling a vision to create a strong community. In addition to being smart, Jill has an unwavering passion and commitment to Princeton.
Jill has been an advocate and strong defender for excellence in education and very engaged in the (former) Valley Road Child Care Center for years. She also created the St. Nicholas Project more than 10 years ago, providing hundreds of families not only with gifts at Christmas, but additional resources to meet the hard challenges many parents confront day-to-day.
As mayor, Jill will be able to build on an already great foundation of partnerships both private and public. Her thoughtful consideration and thoroughness in looking for the right solutions will ensure sound decisions are made for the good of Princeton.
It has been my policy since my stint in elective office, to stay out of Borough politics. I chose to become involved at this time because consolidation is an issue that affects me as a resident of Princeton Township, and because of my extensive experience with the issue the last time it was considered by the municipalities. Whether the outcome is a four year term, or for a single year, I believe that Jill Jachera has the intellectual, interpersonal, and visionary qualities to be a terrific mayor. I am proud to be her friend and offer my support to her campaign.
On the Importance of Understanding Consolidations Liabilities, Realities
To the Editor:
Given my personal experience in consolidating service organizations, two items struck me as serious omissions while reading the Full Final Report, Princeton Consolidation and Shared Services Commission, June 22, 2011. I was involved both in consolidating a small unit of a major pharmaceutical company into a larger unit of the company, and as a small business owner, I led efforts to integrate my business into the acquiring company. Both instances required huge expenditures of labor in order to integrate procedures, rules, systems, and people. A service organization, whether it is a regulated analytical testing laboratory or a municipal government, must operate by rules, regulations, and procedures. Consolidating two organizations will require rewriting, revising, and updating of Township and Borough regulations and police department standard operating procedures. My experience shows this procedure is a huge cost of consolidation in terms of peoples time, which of course means huge monetary costs. The commission report does not even list $1 in costs for any of these activities, just capital improvement and minor legal fees. In addition, it does not state who will carry out this immense task, certainly not the people who will lose their jobs.
The second omission in the report concerns the reality of organizations. The report implies that the consolidated organization will operate with fewer people than the sum of the two. The report does not reference any history or studies of consolidating municipal governments where savings were achieved, and based on my experience, larger service organizations have more overhead, more middle management, and are less responsive to those they serve. We have to look no further than the center of Princeton Borough and ask how many vice presidents and regional managers work at Starbucks and how many work at Small World Coffee?
Arguments for consolidation such as I just know it is the right thing to do or Of course it makes sense without a full understanding of the liabilities and realities of consolidation will surely leave residents of Princeton Borough with reduced services, less representation, and a higher tax burden for the foreseeable future.
Three Choices for Two Communities Facing Stark Economic Realities
To the Editor:
I support consolidation. I think it will give us a more accountable local government, unify and strengthen our neighborhoods, and ensure a vital, thriving downtown. I think it will also provide us with substantial cost savings and lower our taxes. Most importantly, I think consolidation will allow us to maintain the quality of life and public services that we have come to expect living in Princeton.
For those who attended or watched the joint municipality meeting on consolidation at Borough Hall on September 27, the evening ended on a sobering note. The last audience member to speak, who happened to be against consolidation, said If it aint broke, why fix it? Each member of the Borough Council and Township Committee then spoke directly to that question. In their individual responses, they made it clear that, after more than three years of small or no budget increases in each municipality, and after decreasing payrolls through attrition, along with taking other more aggressive cost saving measures, there are no more substantial savings to be made unless we start eliminating complete services or whole programs like Corner House and Affordable Housing. In the words of one Township Committeeperson, The budgets have been scrubbed clean.
So what choices do our two communities have in terms of responsibly facing the stark economic realities of the long-term readjustment in our national and local economies?
Choice No. 1: Remain separate municipalities and raise taxes to maintain our current level of public services and quality of life.
Choice No. 2: Remain separate municipalities at our current tax levels and watch the level of our public services and quality of life erode.
Choice No. 3: Consolidate into one unified community, lower our taxes, and increase the level of our public services and enhance our quality of life.
I feel certain none of us want to see our taxes increase or the level of our public services decrease.
Consolidation gives us the best opportunity to make sure that Princeton remains an affordable, economically vibrant, and culturally rich community for all of us for decades to come.
Mt. Lucas Rd.
A Response to the Admonition That Borough Residents Should Man Up
To the Editor:
In response to Joshua Leinsdorfs letter in the October 5 Mailbox admonishing Borough residents because we are punching above our weight (see David and Goliath) and urging us to grow up and man up, I would like to say that I find this quite insulting. Weve managed to govern and manage the Borough for the past 198 years quite successfully. Well enough for the Township to want to join us; this is the seventh such request. Shared services were mutually agreed upon and at times not necessarily to our advantage. One of the big perks for the Township would be garbage collection. One would think the Township would have afforded their resident taxpayers this service without waiting for consolidation. Township residents dont need to punch their weight, man up or grow up because they and we are doing fine. If consolidation is such a good idea why are not more towns doing it?
Consolidation is not needed, wanted, or beneficial to either the Township or Borough. Neither can afford the costs or the turmoil that will result. Vote no on consolidation!
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