How to Perform a Shared/Consolidation Review

Article written by Bob Casey, Member of LUARCC. This article was originally published in NJ Municipalities magazine. Vol. 86, No. 5, May 2009.

In the spring of 2007, the state Legislature declared that the multitude of local government jurisdictions in New Jersey contributed to the high property tax burden suffered by New Jersey residents. Consequently, the Legislature adopted Chapter 63 of the Public Laws of 2007, which streamlined the process for consolidating municipalities and provided much greater flexibility in designing services in the newly created consolidated municipality.

This statute provides a great deal of leeway in consolidating municipalities including a number of options and alternates in how to create a new government for the future. However, this very flexibility also makes it more difficult to determine what is best for a specific grouping of municipalities given the options in the law. This article summarizes some methodologies and processes that can be helpful in analyzing existing operations and realities possibly leading to increased sharing of municipal services or the consolidation of municipalities. A copy of the expanded “Consolidation Roadmap” article is available for viewing.

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Getting Started-Goal-Setting: The Initial Consensus

The first step in the study process is to agree on the basic long term and short term goals of the study: What do you hope to accomplish in the study and any agreed implementation? Some suggested goals that may be relevant include:

  1. Improved local government efficiency and effectiveness so that operations and tasks are performed with lower cost /greater benefits in the future; and/or
  2. Better response to growth pressures or possible economic stagnation; and/or
  3. Cost avoidance-the ability to meet pending demands in a more effective manner; and/or
  4. Better delivery of services or the expansion of services to everyone (or even portions of the new municipality); and/or
  5. Better utilization of skilled personnel, specialized equipment, and technology; and/or
  6. Coordinated land-use, traffic, infrastructure and other area-wide decisions; and/or
  7. Lower operational cost (Note that a focus solely on costs and expense issues will make the consolidation more difficult. In most consolidations there are some winners and some losers. To be successful there must be other goals to gain the necessary support for implementation).