In a few years, after all the structural changes to local government have taken place, consolidation is expected to reduce governing costs in the municipality by about $3.1 million per year. Given that the combined annual budgets of the two towns total about $60 million, this represents a savings of about 5 percent.
A large portion of these savings will come from the elimination of 18 local government jobs deemed to be redundant.
“A lot of those personnel are either resigning or have retired,” said Scott Sillars, vice chairman of the Transition Task Force, the body responsible for overseeing the consolidation process.
Sillars explained that very few municipal employees were being laid off. The total reduction of 18 was based on a 2010 headcount of municipal employees, which has already been reduced as a result of employee retirements, he added.
The bulk of the savings will come from the merger of the two municipalities’ police departments, where nine redundant positions will be eliminated. The TTF has estimated that the police merger alone will shave between $1.4 million and $2.1 million from the community’s annual budget.
Together, the Borough and Township Police Departments currently consist of 60 sworn officers. After consolidation, the number of officers will be gradually reduced to 51 over the next three years, as officers reach their expected retirement ages.
The community police are taking the merger as an opportunity to examine their relationship with the University’s Department of Public Safety to identify additional redundancies. Currently, both the Borough Police Department and DPS respond to emergency 911 calls made from campus locations. The departments are in the process of working out new protocols to avoid duplicative responses.
After rejecting proposals for consolidation three times in the past six decades, Princeton residents voted for the merger last November. Come Jan. 1, 2013, the two will become one town, simply called Princeton.
Most of the University’s campus is currently located in Princeton Borough, referred to as the “hole in the doughnut” because it is surrounded on all sides by Princeton Township. The Borough has a population of 12,307 and is the community’s urban core and downtown district, while the Township has a population of 16,265 and composes the suburban outer ring of the community and includes Forbes College and some parts of Butler College.
The process has the potential to serve as a model for other New Jersey municipalities considering merging in order to save money. Governor Chris Christie has voiced his support for the Princetons’ plans to consolidate. Accordingly, the state has committed to pay 20 percent of the towns’ consolidation costs as part of an initiative to encourage cost-saving mergers.
The two governments have spent about $400,000 so far to cover one-time costs associated with the merger, The Times of Trenton reported on Sept. 5. These costs include moving and relocation costs as well as the costs of drawing new tax maps for the consolidated town, purchasing new software programs and paying for legal services.
The costs of the transition process are expected to reach a total of about $2 million over the next year, Sillars explained. The Princetons will be the largest New Jersey towns ever to effect a merger.
Sillars added that state officials seemed to be pleased with the process so far.
The finance subcommittee of the TTF is currently drafting the first annual budget for the new municipality, according to Jo Butler, a Borough Council member who is also a member of the TTF. The municipal departments are expected to begin physically moving to their shared spaces soon.
On the recommendation of the consolidation committee that studied the prospective merger last year, the new municipality will adopt the borough form of government. As a borough, Princeton will be governed by a mayor and a six-member council, all of whom are directly elected by the voters. The six Council members vote on the community’s legislative issues. The mayor, who presides over Council meetings, votes only in the event of a tie.
The leaders of the consolidated Princeton will be elected on Nov. 6.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/09/14/31111/