When Princeton Borough and Township consolidated to form one municipality on January 1, 2012, the rest of New Jersey looked on. The Garden State has an astonishing 565 municipalities, and Governor Christie has championed the cause of consolidation as a way to reduce the cost of administration and drive down taxes. But so far, the marriage of the Princetons has been the only consolidation. That is something of a pity from a planning perspective, because the balkanized municipal landscape makes it hard to confront regional planning issues (think: traffic, transit planning) that cross municipal lines. On the other hand, New Jersey has a lot of municipalities for a reason: people like having hyperlocal control over their neighborhoods. The main question for towns considering consolidation, however, is tax. Does consolidation reduce tax bills?A few years down the road, we can now see how consolidation affected municipal taxes in Princeton. Princeton has a Citizens Finance Advisory Committee, which advises the Mayor and Council on financial matters. Earlier this year, after the Princeton municipal budget was set, they sent out a newsletter to Princeton residents which contained the graph shown above. The graph shows clearly that whereas Princeton municipal taxes have fallen by 3% since consolidation, almost every other local township has seen an increase in tax take. In fact, the average change in municipal taxes among Mercer County municipalities in this time period has been +12%. Princeton has reversed the trend of ever-increasing taxes, and delivered savings to local residents as other communities are asking their residents to hand over ever-larger amounts through their tax bills.
Was Princeton consolidation a success in your eyes? What other towns could be candidates for consolidation? Let us know in the comments section below.