Launch Slideshow

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The urge to merge

The urge to merge

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    With the pending merger of their respective fleet operations, San Benito County Public Works Administrator Steve Wittry (left) and City of Hollister, Calif., Public Works Director Clay Lee will provide for the other what each has specialized in — the county, heavy equipment; the city, passenger vehicles. The transition is also made easier because of proximity: both operations are located in Hollister, the county seat. Photos: Nick Lovejoy Photography

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    Hollister, Calif., Equipment Mechanic Ernie Castillo's job will become more specialized after his city and the county merge services.

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    Source: PUBLIC WORKS

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    In California, San Benito County and the City of Hollister plan to merge fleet services because continuing statewide budgetary issues — like a deficit of around $13 billion — are trickling down to city and county agencies.

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    The rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer. Consolidation ensures equal access to public services for citizens of all economic means, says local government consultant Mayraj Fahim.

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    TWO BECOME ONE. Some say next year's merger of New Jersey's Princeton Borough and Princeton Township into “Princeton” works only because the two communities had similar populations and tax rates and that, because they'd shared 13 services, estimates of $3.2 million in annual savings are overoptimistic. But in a state with the most municipal bond downgradings, at least one financial analyst, Moody's Investors Service Inc., terms the move “credit positive.” The new Princeton will have about $112 million in combined debt, which is about 16% of the operating expenses of each. Map: Center for Governmental Research Inc.

By Victoria K. Sicaras

Some say it was a long time coming. In November, more than a century after New Jersey's Princeton Borough seceded from Princeton Township over a school tax dispute, residents voted to bring the governments back together effective Jan. 1, 2013. The new Princeton will serve a combined population of roughly 29,000.

The move makes sense. The borough is completely surrounded by the township. Residents reached a resolution long ago about the 1894 tax dispute and combined schools. Today, the two communities share more than a dozen public services, including animal control and fire. Nevertheless, it took four tries since 1953 to get voters to approve a merger.

Even with shared services, the effort will encounter headaches. The onetime cost of the consolidation, as estimated by a joint commission, is $1.7 million. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reportedly offered to pay 20%. As the two Princetons become one, police, public works, and other departments will have to be merged, with some anticipated layoffs to remove redundancies.