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NY Times: Revenue Loss Putting Cities in Fiscal Vise

“If there’s any light that comes out of this deep national recession, it’s that people have to take realistic views of things they would not otherwise consider at other times,” said NJ Governor Jon Corzine.

New Jersey is infamous for the overwhelming number of local governments and their attachment to home rule. Common sense says we have too many chiefs and high salaries running all these towns, police and fire departments and school districts. When life was much more simple in the 1700s and 1800s, such a landscape was probably ideal. These days I doubt anyone would build a new state that way — it’s inefficient and unsustainable.

“The dire fiscal prospects have sparked a renewed interest in consolidation among New Jersey’s 566 local governments. Princeton Borough and Princeton Township held a meeting last Monday to discuss for the third time the prospect of merging their local governments. Mr. Corzine, who has long said the state has too many governing bodies, welcomed talk of mergers.”

The rallying call is to lower property taxes in NJ – which has the highest average property taxes in the US – by sharing services across municipalities. What’s the best ratio of governing bodies, chiefs and bottle washers? I think a good starting place are ratios of critical municipal employees and public-safety employees per citizen.

But how do you think we should determine these ratios?



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