A group of Merchantville residents started a petition to consolidate the borough of nearly 4,000 in Camden County with Cherry Hill, a township with more than 70,000 residents. Members of Merchantville Connecting for the Future collected signatures for the merger with the help of Courage to Connect NJ, a non-profit and non-partisan group that educates the public about the consolidation of municipalities. A commission was sworn in last month to oversee a study of the consolidation, which is expected to begin in the next two months. The study should take six to nine months to complete.
Those in favor of the merger say they fear without consolidation Merchantville residents will see higher taxes and fewer services. But others worry that a merger would strip Merchantville’s identity. If the commission votes that the final decision should be a public vote, a referendum would be placed on a future November ballot in both Merchantville and Cherry Hill.
NJToday‘s Lauren Wanko reports from Merchantville.
Courage to Connect NJ Executive Director Gina Genovese sat down with NJToday Managing Editor Mike Schneider to discuss her organization’s mission of educating the public about consolidation. Genovese, a former elected official who served as mayor of Long Hill Township for a year, said she realized there some municipalities are too small to exist by themselves and wanted to get involved in a group that educated the public about the issue of consolidation. She said one of the education points is a law passed in 2007 that gives citizens the power to initiate a consolidation study without local officials.
Regarding the Merchantville/Cherry Hill consolidation study, Genovese pointed out that Merchantville citizens and the Cherry Hill mayor and council are the ones who want to look into the issue. “If two towns can work together and make that happen in New Jersey, that’s wonderful,” she said.
Courage to Connect NJ is currently working with 12 groups throughout the state. Genovese said the issue is resonating with people who are fed up with the taxes they’re paying.