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Roxbury and Mount Arlington Residents File Petition to Study Municipal Consolidation
ROXBURY AND MOUNT ARLINGTON – November 1, 2013 – Citizens representing Roxbury and Mount Arlington today submitted petitions to clerks in both municipalities calling for a municipal consolidation study commission.
Nearly 400 signed petitions were handed in to the Roxbury municipal clerk today, while Mount Arlington residents handed in 111 signatures. In both towns, there were dozens of extra signatures submitted.
Once the petitions are certified, the citizens’ group can then work on an application with the state to form the consolidation commission, comprising five residents of each town. The commission is designed to study the pros and cons of merging the towns, and if the issue should go before voters of both communities.
The process, which follows the Municipal Consolidation Act of 2007, is similar to what is now taking place in Scotch Plains and Fanwood, which formed their consolidation commission earlier this year in partnership with local elected officials.
“This is another example of local citizens working under state law to promote change,” said Gina Genovese, executive director, Courage to Connect New Jersey, which is assisting the citizens’ group through the process. “The group of petitioners in Mount Arlington and Roxbury are making history for their hometowns, calling for an analysis to see if the two towns are better together.”
The effort was put together by the Roxbury Taxpayer Association, including Fran Day, Garry DeFilippis and Chris Rogers, this year’s Roxbury School Board candidates. Another key player has been Maureen Castriotta, Independent candidate for State Senate in the 25th District, who has made consolidation one of her key issues during her campaign.
In Mount Arlington, the effort was driven by former Councilman Gene Paradiso, a current school board member who joined a group to merge the towns in the 1990s, before the Municipal Consolidation Act of 2007 was adopted.
“The only focus I have concerning this topic is that there is a need to complete the Fact-Finding phase of such an effort,” Paradiso said. “I am personally not in favor or against following through with Consolidation. I would like to uncover all the variables and related facts so that this topic can finally have the facts and the community given the ability to weigh their options in a non-emotional manner.”
President of Roxbury TEAM, Craig Heard added, “We share the goal of improving educational quality in the schools by eliminating waste, lowering property taxes and directing savings to the classroom. That is why we have played an integral part in raising awareness about consolidation.”
The effort to gather petition signatures began October 2012, with residents from both towns meeting to discuss the petition process.
“We formed a team to raise awareness about consolidation, and petition residents’ signatures to submit proper documentation to the state Department of Community Affairs and ultimately get approval for a Consolidation Study that would analyze feasibility,” Heard said. “Now, with the petitions submitted, the goal is to analyze potential savings by consolidating municipal functions, school administration, and adoption of best practices.
Roxbury and Mount Arlington are not the first to pursue this initiative. Princeton Borough and Princeton Township conducted the study in 2011, and consolidated on January 1. The merged town has more than $3 million in tax savings and has received positive feedback from residents.