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1-5-07 Small-town officials protest consolidation
Home News Tribune Online 01/5/07 "..Consolidation will hurt small, efficient communities," O'Brien[Metuchen]said, adding that small towns cost taxpayers less to run than larger municipalities.

Glen Ridge Mayor Carl Bergmanson said small communities are at an advantage because they can "move and adjust in ways to save our taxpayers money." Towns and schools across the state already share services and equipment when it makes economic sense to do so, he added.

"Small towns are not the problem," Bergmanson said.

An official from a Trenton-based lobbying group said citizens need to be aware of the proposed measures, which contain serious "harbingers."

Small-town officials protest consolidation Home News Tribune Online 01/5/07 By GINA VERGEL STAFF WRITER gvergel@thnt.com METUCHEN Officials from some of the state's smallest municipalities gathered in front of Borough Hall yesterday for a last-minute rally opposing the fast tracking of a bill that could affect close-knit communities. "It's one of the most dangerous bills that is floating out there," said Metuchen Mayor Edmund O'Brien, referring to a measure that would create a County Superintendent, consolidate municipal services and move school and fire district elections to November among other changes. The proposal is being considered by state lawmakers as a move to cut costs and lower property taxes, which average $6,000 per homeowner statewide. With 566 municipalities in New Jersey most with their own town councils, school and fire districts and property-tax bills that are tops in the nation, state officials have begun to take a serious look at merging services to save money. But local leaders say they haven't seen any proof that taxpayers will realize any savings. "No one knows more than mayors that property taxes are a problem in our state," said Highland Park Mayor Meryl Frank. "If there were savings here, who do you think would be pushing for consolidation? It would be us. I'd be first in line to support it." O'Brien and Frank were joined by the mayors of Glen Ridge, Chatham Boro and Cape May Point, a resort community with a winter population of only 250. School and local officials from Helmetta, Spotswood and Point Pleasant also joined the group of about a dozen leaders. The group said it does not oppose voluntary consolidation but asked to see proof of actual savings. Richard Plambeck, the mayor of Chatham, said his borough was among the first in the state to regionalize school districts when it joined with that of Chatham Township. "We're not afraid of looking at things that make (school districts) efficient, but we're not seeing that here." O'Brien agreed. "Consolidation will hurt small, efficient communities," O'Brien said, adding that small towns cost taxpayers less to run than larger municipalities. Glen Ridge Mayor Carl Bergmanson said small communities are at an advantage because they can "move and adjust in ways to save our taxpayers money." Towns and schools across the state already share services and equipment when it makes economic sense to do so, he added. "Small towns are not the problem," Bergmanson said. An official from a Trenton-based lobbying group said citizens need to be aware of the proposed measures, which contain serious "harbingers." "It allows the county to tinker with our school budgets, line by line," said Lynne Strickland, the executive director of the Garden State Coaliton of Schools. "They could remove a whole line and there's no appeal process. That's very disempowering of a local Board of Education." Moreover, Strickland said, the bill contains "a link" to consolidation. "They're supposed to have the power to recommend the consolidation of districts," Strickland said. "That's why districts are worried, and they have every reason to be." Contributing: The Associated Press

Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
609-394-2828