Bloomberg News

Two Princeton Towns in New Jersey Vote in Favor of Consolidation

November 15, 2011

Nov. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Voters in the two New Jersey towns that share the Princeton name with the Ivy League university approved a ballot measure to merge.

The proposal to combine the 1.9-square-mile Princeton Borough, which includes the downtown shopping and dining area, and the surrounding 16.6-square-mile Princeton Township passed in the township with 3,542 in favor and 604 against, and in the borough with 1,238 for and 828 against, according to unofficial results posted on Mercer County’s website.

Governor Chris Christie, a first-term Republican, endorsed the plan, offering to pay 20 percent of the total $1.7 million cost. The towns had rejected at least three earlier consolidation attempts, most recently in 1996.

Christie, who took office in 2010, is urging New Jersey’s 566 municipalities to combine operations to help stem growth in property-tax bills, the highest in the U.S. Governors in Ohio and Pennsylvania are asking local officials to do the same. Property-tax collections, the main income source for municipalities, dropped 1.2 percent, to $88.5 billion, in the second quarter from a year earlier, the third-straight decline, the U.S. Census Bureau reported in September.

Princeton, midway between New York City and Philadelphia, was settled in 1696. In 1894, a dispute over school funding led residents in the center to secede, forming the borough. The governments remained separate even after residents reached a resolution on the education issue and combined schools.

Split on Savings

The borough, with about 12,300 residents, has a median home value of $619,700 and household income of $106,551. The township, with about 16,300 people, has a median home value of $760,900 and household income is $105,662, according to data from the municipalities.

New Jersey’s median household income is $68,444, the second-highest in the U.S., and home value is $356,800, while the national average is $50,221 for income and $185,400 for home value, Census Data show.

Princeton University, one of the eight Ivy League schools, straddles both towns and is the biggest property taxpayer in each. The school didn’t take a position on a merger, Robert K. Durkee, its vice president and secretary, said in an Oct. 14 interview.

Borough History

A group called Preserve Our Historic Borough argued that a forecast $3.1 million in annual savings was overestimated by at least $1 million. Unite Princeton disagreed, saying the towns were aligned culturally and economically, and would never realize such savings on their own.

Princeton borough has $51 million of debt outstanding, while the township has $56.1 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Standard & Poor’s rates the borough AA+, the second-highest grade, and the township its top AAA.

The two towns share more than a dozen services including animal control, solid waste and fire. They have their own police departments, each with 30 sworn personnel. In both cases, police is the largest cost, $3.5 million in the borough and $3.8 million in the township, according to the center’s report. Their 2010 budgets combined totaled $65.1 million.

--Editors: Stacie Servetah, William Glasgall

To contact the reporter on this story: Elise Young in Trenton at eyoung30@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net


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