Speaking to a town hall audience in Perth Amboy June 15 Governor Christie said his proposed “Prop” or “Cap 2.5” could force mergers that would reduce the number of school districts and towns. The Garden State now has 566 towns and 588 school districts.
“There’s a lot of redundancy that goes on from district to district” he told the crowd of about 275 people. “When Cap 2.5 comes into effect those school districts are going to have to make choices and some of those choices are going to be that they’re going to want to consolidate with other districts to be able to save their money. Right now there is no incentive to do that and there is no imperative to do it because all they need to do is just continue to raise property taxes.”
“In towns across New Jersey not just school boards but towns as we put a cap on what they can spend then they have to decide ‘Well how do we spend our money?'” Christie said. “What the cap will do will be to force that discussion.”
In a nod to the near-sacred status of home rule Christie said decisions on merging will be up to towns and school districts – not determined by him or “some bureaucrats in Trenton.”
Efforts to combine local governments go back decades but legal financial and emotional hurdles about surrendering identities abound. Shared-services agreements however have blossomed during the recession as town coffers shrink and state aid is cut.
The Governor’s proposal needs the support of three-fifths of the Democrat-controlled state Legislature to go on the ballot in November. New Jersey now has a 4 percent statutory cap with more exceptions than Christie’s which could only be exceeded by voter approval or for debt payments.
The Perth Amboy town hall meeting Christie’s sixth drew fans and critics a day after The Star-Ledger reported subtle efforts to build friendly audiences at earlier sessions. Some invitations were sent by Christie’s office others by Mayor Wilda Diaz and other attendees learned through press reports officials said.