In an open forum-style town hall meeting at the Princeton Public Library on Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie congratulated the town of Princeton on the consolidation of the Borough and Township before fielding questions from the audience. Joining Christie were Township Mayor Chad Goerner and Borough Council President Kevin Wilkes ’83.
Christie first offered the audience, composed mainly of local Princeton residents, his congratulations on the recent Borough and Township votes in favor of consolidating the two municipalities. He emphasized the expected annual savings of $3.2 million for residents of the two municipalities, despite the one-time $1.7 million cost of consolidating.
While the Borough and Township already share many services, the planned consolidation of the police departments and municipal administration personnel is expected to account for a significant amount of the the predicted savings, according to government reports.
The transition to a joined municipality will largely occur next year, with the fully consolidated government expected to be in effect by January 2013, Goerner explained.
Long a proponent of increasing government efficiency and cutting spending, Christie was a public advocate of the consolidation proposal that the towns recently approved and is now promoting the idea of consolidating municipalities across New Jersey.
On Monday, he said he hopes other municipalities will take note of the Princetons’ successful vote on consolidation and the eventual savings as an inspiration to look into how their own governments can promote efficiency and cost-cutting measures.
The Princetons are already benefiting from state legislation aimed at motivating consolidation across the state. Beyond Christie himself coming to Princeton to show his support for consolidation, the state of New Jersey is also contributing 20 percent of the expected implementation costs of consolidation.
“It is certainly helpful to an extent,” Goerner said of the 20 percent grant. “[But] I think this consolidaiton effort was really something that was driven by Princeton residents and the surrounding community from the ground up.”
Christie also broadened the discussion by speaking extensively about the state’s need to find additional ways to save taxpayer money and to increase efficiency in government.
Specifically, he noted the state of sick leave pay procedures for public sector workers. “We are paying people for not being sick,” he said, referencing the practice of allowing public sector workers to collect money for not taking sick leave.