Senator Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf, and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove urged residents to reject the false narrative that forced municipal consolidation will produce a windfall of savings for taxpayers:
Forced or coerced municipal consolidation is an issue that rears its head periodically but, nonetheless, should be taken seriously given its severe and wide-ranging implications for representative government in our state. Residents would be best served by rejecting the false narrative that having Trenton unilaterally redraw the borders of their hometowns by one means or another will somehow produce a windfall of savings.
Connors, Rumpf & Gove urged residents to reject the false narrative that forced municipal consolidation will produce a windfall of savings for taxpayers. (SenateNJ.com)
For the most part, tax bills are high because of the broken state school funding formula and Trenton’s misplaced spending priorities. Smaller government has proven far more effective in providing services as opposed to cities, and the State, for that matter. So the question remains: why are smaller and mid-sized municipalities, as a whole, even being labeled as culprits of high taxation?
It’s one thing for Trenton to lecture other government entities about the need to be more fiscally responsible. But it’s an entirely different level of arrogance for Trenton to compel municipalities to operate under the city model largely defined by an expansive, cumbersome and costly bureaucracy, as if this somehow represents reform.
Municipal operations comprise only a small portion of property tax bills. Under the two-percent tax levy cap, municipalities have little flexibility to increase spending, whereas the State has no such limitations on spending and can, essentially, cook up overly-optimistic revenue projections to give the appearance – at least on paper – of a balanced budget.
Forced consolidation advocates fail to see that the imposition of the cap has already compelled municipalities to share services, when practical. But to be effective, shared services agreements should be left to elected local officials who know better than a Trenton bureaucrat how to run their municipality or, more importantly, how residents want their town run.
If Trenton was truly committed to curtailing wasteful spending at the local level then it has to look no further than cities that can’t or won’t manage their finances responsibly. Media reports of wasteful spending occurring in our cities are not only jaw-dropping but infuriating, especially when it concerns cities whose budgets are largely subsidized by non-resident taxpayers.
Experience has taught us and common sense shows us that smaller government leads to greater transparency. Corruption and waste is far easier to prevent or root out when you can follow the money as opposed to a multilayer bureaucracy that millions of taxpayer dollars are poured into.
Forced consolidation also disenfranchises voters by denying them the basic right to choose how their town is run. Voters are highly likely to reject the “Trenton knows best” policy approach just on principle. Generally speaking, there will almost always be winners and losers when municipalities consolidate. Taxpayers of one municipality are going to take on the debt, mismanaged services and/or expenses of the other municipality.
Residents are already empowered under State law to direct their local elected officials to proceed with the consolidation process. However, to date, only two municipalities in the entire state have chosen to consolidate. This is very telling, to say the least.
If the public so favored consolidation and was convinced savings could be achieved, then why haven’t more towns consolidated? Are the “home rule” advocates who have the audacity to want to preserve their voice in local government and reject ceding more authority to Trenton somehow ruining it for the rest of us? Certainly not.
By and large, most residents prefer their town as it is as opposed to what the Trenton bureaucracy determines is best for them. Trenton’s policies are generally regarded as the primary culprit of high taxes. Residents simply don’t trust state bureaucrats to have even more power over municipalities then they already have under current law and regulations.
Let’s call forced consolidation what it really is: a diversion from the real, politically-driven and correctable causes of high taxation.
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