NJ Policy Group (3) Merging Municipalities

The Economic and Fiscal Policy Working Group in a draft document included this as a recommendation under the ‘County & Municipal Government Reform / Shared Services’ category:

9. Require municipalities with less than 5,000 to merge with adjacent municipalities over a five-year period as dictated by LUARCC or the Department of Community Affairs.

A reasonable suggestion in a perfect world but in the miasma that is New Jersey political bossism – DOA. Rodney Dangerfield explains:

nj.com sets the table:

If such a policy were enacted, it would have a monumental impact on some of the state’s counties. About 80 percent of Salem County’s municipalities would be forced to merge. Only Passaic County would be unaffected. Realistically, it’s a pipe dream. The only thing New Jersey hates more than property taxes is the idea of giving up any kind of local control that causes them to be so high in the first place.

See all towns on the chopping block

and David Wildstein knocks it out of the park:

Senate President Steve Sweeney’s non-plan plan to merge 191 of New Jersey’s smallest municipalities could have some unintended political consequences:

1. Legislative Redistricting:  Small towns are integral to creating districts that are equal in size – the state Constitution requires each of the forty districts need to be nearly equal in population — within 5% of the ideal number. Small towns are necessary to make that work.  Without these 191 smaller municipalities, it would be almost mathematically impossible to draw equally sized, compact districts without forcing some towns (beyond Newark and Jersey City) to be split into different legislative districts.

2. Municipal Chairs: More than 1/3 of the Democratic and Republican municipal chairs in New Jersey would lose their jobs under the Sweeney plan.  The transfer of county committee members from one town to another could imperil the political power of the host community’s incumbent chair.  Example: Town A is merged with large Town B.  Town B municipal chairman rules with a tenuous majority and new votes from Town A is enough to oust the Town B boss.

3. Personal Financial Gain: How many legislators, county chairs, major contributors and other political insiders have jobs or contracts with the 191 towns Sweeney might seek to eliminate?  Lots of municipal attorney, prosecutor, public defender, labor counsel, bond counsel jobs at stake, and most – maybe all — of the 191 towns have an insurance contract.

4. Political Control of Local Government: Absorbing an entire town could change party control in the next election.  Example: let’s say Essex Democrats finally take control of Roseland in 2018, but then Essex Fells gets merged into Roseland.  Essex Fells isn’t that big, but enough Republicans would be exported to Roseland to make it likely that the GOP would take the town back in the next election.

5. County Boundaries: What if a small town in one county wants to join with a bordering town in a different county, like Peapack-Gladstone in Somerset County deciding it wants to join Mendham Township in Morris County?  If the Legislature starts allowing towns to secede from one county to join another, watch the floodgates open up.

16 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by NJ2AZ on June 21, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    hah…are Cranford/Westfield/Clark going to play hot potato or musical chairs to see who gets to absorb Garwood?


    • Whoever gets Garwood would likely also get Bruce Paterson at all their council meetings. Might be a factor.


      • Posted by NJ2AZ on June 21, 2018 at 6:10 pm

        oh man i made a mistake, Clark isn’t really in the mix.

        wow i’d love to watch the meetings between Cranford & Westfield about who gets stuck with Garwood.

        As a Cranford native, i’d like to see them stick it to those Westfield jags but i reckon its a battle cranford would lose


  2. Posted by dentss on June 21, 2018 at 7:19 pm

    This SC ruling on collecting sales tax on sales out of state …this could open the door to states taxing the pensions they send retirees in other states ….interesting


    • Posted by El gaupo on June 21, 2018 at 9:31 pm

      I could too. Would negate the reason some folks move to states that don’t tax pensions. Although state income tax is not the main reason.
      Interesting argument.
      1) on the one hand this income in both private and public sectors is considered deferred income. If your former employer is paying you money that you presumably earned while a nj resident, the argument is that they should allow for tax taken out. Your employer would need to deduct income tax from your check.
      2) on the other hand, you are a resident of another state, and no longer get to vote or receive any benifit from NJ. If I do not live in or work in NJ how could I possibly earn income there.
      Won’t happen anytime soon. Too many old folks with pensions. As that number dwindles and millennialis start taking over, watch out. They will care about their kids not the older folks that screwed them over.


      • Posted by Tough Love on June 22, 2018 at 6:51 am

        Quoting …………. “They will care about their kids not the older folks that screwed them over.”

        Like you will be doing to those that follow………….. well at least until your pension is rightfully cut.


        • Posted by El gaupo on June 22, 2018 at 9:23 am

          If I am honest with myself TL, you are correct.
          However, most of these towns are really pushing hard to get rid of things like medical after retirement and longevity pay. Two things I will in fact have that new officers hired now will not. At least 3/4 of the suburban towns around me have removed that benifit for new hires or are trying to do so. My town removed the longevity benifit for all but pba in 2003. And 4 years ago took medical after retirement for anyone w less than 25 years on. Active people. Folks with 23 years on. The ONLY reason they couldn’t take it from me was because we have a contract and can bargain. Plus the salary scale is much longer to reach top pay. That was a progression over several contracts. So….I am not proud of it but yes…I have voted to make concessions for new hires over the years. Sometimes with the advise of our attorney who stated it is different now. All the main ones have been since Christie took over. The feeling has been arbitrators can’t award anything and often give out zeros depending on how many guys are in steps. So the only way to get raises at all is to give up a benifit for new hires.
          I wish it wasn’t the case. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t vote to remove a benifit in order to increase our salary scale (which new hires would also benifit from that at least). I have said many times- this job compensation wise and in general is no where near what it was even 15 years ago.


          • Posted by El gaupo on June 22, 2018 at 9:37 am

            Be honest my fellow commentators, if you were in my shoes you would also want to preserve what you have. If your company was making cuts that affected only future employees, you probably wouldn’t love it but you resign yourself to the fact that it is what it is.
            My opinion is anyone hired in the last 8 years as a police officer will certainly not enjoy the standard of living based solely on his or her employment contract that I have.
            In my town anyone hired after 2018 will not receive medical. Meaning most likely, you will see all the cops staying until 65. Longevity being eliminated alone will save about $15000 a year in today’s dollars compared to me.
            Despite what you see on tv shows, police work is certainly not glamorous. You are one quick moment away from being the next you tube sensation. Do any of you actually have a close friend that is a police officer? It is certainly not a profession that I would have continued to do if I couldn’t support my family. The reality is it is not “a calling” and despite what you think, my mortgage must be paid and my kids must be supported. Please don’t take it as a complaint. Just saying, many of the new kids do complain about steps and lower salary and find it harder to save for homes etc. I’ll be fine and I realize that and sling arrows my way if you must…..but at the very least you should know that the 30 and under crowd in police work is in a completely different boat by any measureable metric.

          • El gaupo,
            Thank you for your candor.

          • Posted by Tough Love on June 22, 2018 at 5:47 pm

            El gaupo,

            I too appreciate your candor, but that doesn’t mean that NJ’s Taxpayers shouldn’t do everything within their power to eliminate the 50+% of your pension & benefits that were NEVER necessary, just, fair to Taxpayers, affordable, and which were BOUGHT from our Elected Officials with Union BRIBES disguised as campaign contributions.

  3. Posted by skip3house on June 21, 2018 at 8:30 pm

  4. Posted by MJ on June 22, 2018 at 7:07 am

    Merging towns…are you kidding me………the voters would never ever go for merging even though they scream the loudest about the high real estate taxes?

    Merge police, fire, school districts, libraries??? Ha ha ha ha….that would mean they would need less public workers. Maybe those voting are the public workers and all their family and friends working in those positions.

    Not to mention all of the political positions knocked out as mentioned above.

    When pigs fly and Sweeney will now be public enemy number one!


    • Posted by El gaupo on June 22, 2018 at 7:05 pm

      Sweeney will be safe. Most of the towns that oppose this are wealthy republican towns. All he has to do is win his district. Perhaps he gets voted out the president spot by his peers.
      No way in hell do folks want that jammed down their throat. It has to be done w towns that are almost identical and already share some services. In fact, most of the costs in these towns are school taxes. For the most part small municipalities are under a brighter spotlight when it comes to taxes. Not much waste.


  5. Posted by geo8rge on June 22, 2018 at 8:14 am

    Many of the small towns have volunteer fire departments, will the merged towns have to hire professional fire departments with pensions to replace them? It is not clear that there will be any savings from merging. Merging businesses can produce savings, but political and business entities are different. Merged police forces will just have larger more expensive bureaucracies.

    A plan might be merging healthcare into a single system. Merging towns is kind of the theory that you can solve a hundred billion dollar pension crisis by merging smaller entities into a larger entity that purchases fewer office supplies. Now medical delivery, that’s real money.

    What happens if Cape May NJ wants to merge with Lewes Delaware?


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