Since Sandy especially, the average Highlands resident need to play a role in reforming not only Highlands, but New Jersey as well. Our town is devastated, we’re looking at a serious future ratable issue, add in to the mix the state of NJ is broke, taxes are rising (outside of Sandy aftermath), and municipal aid is shrinking. We need serious, lasting reforms – the kind of change that comes not from politicians, but from residents.
A solution to consider:
By consolidating several towns into a single, streamlined municipality, we can eliminate overhead and provide better government services at a lower cost. And if done properly, we can make these changes without losing local identity.
We can achieve new efficiencies while preserving the sense of community that makes Highlands unique.
Sea Bright is participating in a study that will analyze the cost/benefit they would face if they merged with another beach front town. Ideally they would pick 5 separate towns and compare those cost/benefits to figure out if this is something they want to move forward on.
I know in the past, when brought up, many residents feared that consolidation could destroy the special character of Highlands. But the reality is, Highlands character doesn’t depend on its local government. (Although, Highlands local government could be described as characters.)
NJ is full of wonderfully unique communities that are part of larger municipalities. For example, Ocean Grove is part of Neptune Township, Short Hills is part of Millburn, and Colonia is part of Woodbridge.
When you think about it, many local governments (especially on the Bayshore) are providing 80% of the same services. This drives up property taxes while reducing the quality of local services.
The real savings come from the elimination of redundant positions that are required for each town. This includes borough administrators, clerks, tax assessors, CFOs, inspectors, attorneys, and DPW management. For example, one administrator can just as easily serve a community of 4,000 or 40,000 but, in the larger town, the cost is covered by ten times the number of residents.
Another benefit: Mayors and councils/committees would come from a larger pool of qualified people.
Why has this not been a successful in the past? Fear.
Fear that Highlands would lose its sense of community or identity
Fear by municipal employees that they will lose their jobs
Fear of the unknown
In the aftermath of Sandy, Highlands needs to consider any and all options of how to pull through this. Municipality consolidation needs to be a consideration.