Voters in the two New Jersey towns that share the Princeton name with the Ivy League university approved a ballot measure to merge.
The proposal to combine the 1.9-square-mile Princeton Borough, which includes the downtown shopping and dining area, and the surrounding 16.6-square-mile Princeton Township passed in the township with 3,542 in favor and 604 against, and in the borough with 1,238 for and 828 against, according to unofficial results posted on Mercer County’s website.
Governor Chris Christie, a first-term Republican, endorsed the plan, offering to pay 20 percent of the total $1.7 million cost. The towns had rejected at least three earlier consolidation attempts, most recently in 1996.
Christie, who took office in 2010, is urging New Jersey’s 566 municipalities to combine operations to help stem growth in property-tax bills, the highest in the U.S. Governors in Ohio and Pennsylvania are asking local officials to do the same. Property-tax collections, the main income source for municipalities, dropped 1.2 percent, to $88.5 billion, in the second quarter from a year earlier, the third-straight decline, the U.S. Census Bureau reported in September.
The borough, with about 12,300 residents, has a median home value of $619,700 and household income of $106,551. The township, with about 16,300 people, has a median home value of $760,900 and household income is $105,662, according to data from the municipalities.
A group called Preserve Our Historic Borough argued that a forecast $3.1 million in annual savings was overestimated by at least $1 million. Unite Princeton disagreed, saying the towns were aligned culturally and economically, and would never realize such savings on their own.
Princeton borough has $51 million of debt outstanding, while the township has $56.1 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Standard & Poor’s rates the borough AA+, the second-highest grade, and the township its top AAA.
The two towns share more than a dozen services including animal control, solid waste and fire. They have their own police departments, each with 30 sworn personnel. In both cases, police is the largest cost, $3.5 million in the borough and $3.8 million in the township, according to the center’s report. Their 2010 budgets combined totaled $65.1 million.