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Two towns merge into new one -- Princeton, N.J. -- to save costs

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In a move to save taxpayer dollars, two New Jersey municipalities voted Tuesday to merge into a united community called Princeton. The Ivy League university of the same name -- which did not take an official position on Tuesday’s vote -- overlaps both towns.

The debate over merging Princeton Borough and Princeton Township has been closely watched by other states and local governments facing dwindling tax revenues and the need to cover essential costs for public services. A similar vote in the two New Jersey towns has failed three times in the past.

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New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie as well as governors in Ohio and Pennsylvania have been urging local governments to seek savings by eliminating unneeded costs. Christie endorsed the Princeton plan and offered to pay 20% of the $1.7-million unification cost, Bloomberg News reported.

The forecast is that Princeton taxpayers will save $3.1 million annually by consolidating services, including those for police and fire protection.

“We have redundancy in government,” borough resident Cole Crittenden told NJ.com in explaining why she supported the merger.

An associate dean at Princeton, Crittenden said the merger also will eliminate problems the university has had in dealing with the small municipalities’ varying rules: “For instance, the two towns’ police departments have different policies for dealing with the students,” he said.

The change had to be approved by a majority of voters in both communities.

The largest share of the ‘no’ voters were from the 1.9-square-mile Princeton Borough, which includes the downtown shopping and dining area. Some residents were concerned that the move would take away from the small-town character of their area. Opponents also insisted that the projected savings were overly generous by $1 million.

Voters in the surrounding 16.6-square-mile township overwhelming endorsed the change. The measure’s supporters argued that the areas had common cultural and economic needs and would thrive together, Bloomberg reported.

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-- Geraldine Baum


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