By Lauren Wanko
Residents and officials of Princeton Borough and Princeton Township joined together for a different kind of celebration on this New Year’s holiday — a celebration to mark the consolidation of the two municipalities.
“I kind of liken the voyage that we went through to the Apollo mission and today ladies and gentlemen the eagle has landed,” declared Princeton Administrator Bob Bruschi to a packed room in the municipal complex.
The first day of the New Year marks the first day of the new Princeton. Residents of both Princeton Township and Princeton Borough voted in the November 2011 election to consolidate the two municipalities. It’s not the first time the referendum appeared on the ballot. The measure was most recently rejected in 1996. Bruschi credits the approved merger with a larger, grassroots movement, saying “it’s representative of the community wanting more community that there were two separate towns that wanted to a build a community.”
Bruschi says the state has committed to pay 20 percent of the approved unification costs. Princeton doesn’t have a final number on the transition cost, but they have calculated the projected cost savings for taxpayers.
“The projected saving for the first year was slightly under $2 million, we estimate that it will probably be somewhere between 2.4 maybe 2.7 million at the end when we finish budgeting,” said Bruschi.
Chad Goerner is outgoing mayor of the former Princeton Township. he says the “effort was really triggered by the 2007 passage of the local option municipal consolidation act that act added a lot more flexibility to studying consolidation and that kind of got our process going.”
The newly elected mayor and 6sixcouncil members were sworn in today, but not without choosing their term limits first, randomly from a top hat — two 1-year terms, two 2-year terms, and two 3-year terms. Supporters, like resident Mimi Omiecinksi, joined together to celebrate the historic day.
“Well I just think it was an obvious next step for the town, we’re going to get incredible savings from it and we’re gonna be able to take the best of the township and the borough,” said Omiecinksi.
Bob Durkee is Vice President and Secretary at Princeton University. Durkee said, “The university has been in both the borough and the township so for us to now be in one municipality really is a great step forward.”
“We shared basically 13 shared services before we actually consolidated, our major two outstanding were police and public works,” said Goerner.
Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18) says the community’s spirit of cooperation and grassroots support is something to be marveled at. According to Buono “there are many, many challenging budgets decisions that are going to have to be made. Municipalities are under an enormous amount of pressure with state aid having decreased over the years, property taxes have gone up dramatically in the last several years and so we have to explore every possible way to bring that pressure down,”
The newly elected mayor says today marks an instance of real democracy in action, adding that all eyes are on Princeton, throughout the state and nationwide.